When did they stop being stations?

Three older ladies boarded the train with me this morning. They were all dolled up in their finery as if they were off to the theatre. Or a WI luncheon. Or the opening of a new art gallery. Where ever they were going they were chattering excitedly as they decided where to sit.

They paused at a double set of three seats across the aisle from me. Their chattering took a decidedly disapproving tone as they surveyed the seats. Every second one was dirty.

They didn’t want to sit in dirt and so they moved across the aisle and sat in another double set of three seats in front of me. And so the excited chattering was replaced by notes of disapproval.

Disgusting!” was one comment. “Probably kids,” was another. “You’d think their parents would teach them to keep their feet on the floor,” was greeted with universal approval.

They left the train at Woking and quiet accompanied me the rest of the way to the flat.

I was heading to Canary Wharf in order to finish my cleaning and tidying following the decorators. Subsequently, I sat in a few trains. I also saw a few feet on seats. None of them belonged to kids.

The worst offender was an Australian woman in her forties whose companion kept moving her feet onto his lap in order to lessen the seat contact. She would then move them back.

Having finished at the flat I went home via the Schuh shoe shop. It was here, many years ago, that I bought the best runners I’ve ever bought. I’m sure there’s a blog post about it. How the sales woman convinced me the New Balance 574 style was the best for wide feet. And she was 100% correct.

I noticed in the window that they had a pair of style 574 runners with my name on them so I entered and approached a sales man asking for a pair in anything but black. He checked his stock device and declared he had an olive pair in my size. I told him I’d have them. He indicated his own 574 clad feet and declared it was an excellent choice.

I walked in with one pair and walked out with two. Even given the wear, I think it’s quite difficult to pick the older pair.

I was standing at Waterloo waiting for a platform when I noticed something odd. It wasn’t my shoes. I don’t know if this is a new thing because I can’t say I’ve noticed it before but, for some reason, the word ‘station’ seems to have become inadequate for explaining where trains stop.

Rather than announcing that some ‘stations have short platforms’ the new term seems to be ‘calling points’. Why? Given the announcement is regarding places where passengers can alight the train I would have thought this was exclusively stations.

Perhaps it’s the whole pomposity thing that South Western Railways seems to imbue its guards with. The way they say ‘myself’ when there’s nothing wrong with ‘me’ or using ‘whilst’ like some Medieval illuminated manuscript creator.

Whatever the explanation, it must be confusing to a lot of people who know what a station is and are now wondering what ‘calling point’ they need to alight from.

And people accuse lawyers of not using Plain English.

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Return to normal

I was up at 6am this morning and off to the shops by 7:30, trolley rattling behind me. I’ll be heading to the flat again tomorrow so I had to shop for two days. Which is why I needed the trolley.

Given that school has gone back I avoided Starbucks for Nero and had a lovely, peaceful latte. I was not harangued for having an extra shot which was nicer than yesterday.

Back at home, Gardener Dave had turned up and started work on the raised bed where the lavender will be going. The lavender used to be at ground level but our garden is a bit damp and it wasn’t happy.

Mirinda claims that raising the bed will help a lot. Besides, we bought three big railway sleepers ages ago and it makes sense to use them.

The double run of bricks is for the sleeper to sit on, keeping it off direct contact with the ground. This is where they left it. I’ll finish the bricks.

They were lucky with the weather which remained dry for most of the day. By the late afternoon we were inundated with rain. There were a few rolling showers punctuated with periods of dry.

The gardeners should finish the raised bed next time.

‘Finishing’ was also managed in the kitchen this afternoon.

Given we were away for Christmas, I have only just managed to ice my Christmas cake. I spent a good hour with spatula, spoon and bowl mixing up some glossy royal icing then spattering it on the cake. I’d covered it in marzipan last week ready for it’s final dressing.

Of course, I am a rubbish decorator so the cake looks a bit of a disaster. Even so, the icing tasted perfect, the marzipan was excellent and the cake itself smelled pretty damn good.

There IS a cake under there

Mirinda was not happy that she’d have to wait for another day.

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Before tonight I’d never heard of the White Flight from St Louis. According to St Louis Bob who I talked to extensively tonight, it happened when the white population decided to move out to the suburbs because they didn’t like the growing black population.

The predominantly wealthy white population then built ugly huge houses with an inch of garden in order to impress fellow shallow whites. There followed a black flight when inner city slums were cleared and middle class black families moved out to their own suburbs.

After talking to Bob, I looked into it and, it seems, St Louis was big on segregation at the turn of the 20th century. They held a referendum about it and the decision to segregate was passed by a two thirds majority. (I assume that the majority of people voting were white.) This segregation seems to have persisted to the present day.

I was talking to St Louis Bob at New Year drinks. We had an invitation with our Christmas card from Fiona and Bruce across the road. It’s always an excellent chance to meet up with the people from our street for a longer chat than “Good Morning.”

That was much later in the day. First thing I was off and into town.

I didn’t have to go food shopping so, rather than going to Starbucks, I decided to try the new coffee shop in the Borough. That was a mistake not to be repeated.

Mirinda went last week and had problems with the Whispering Waitress and being over charged. Today I was harangued for wanting an extra shot then was served a cold latte. To be clear, I didn’t order a cold latte.

I’m not sure why having an extra shot was such a shock, particularly in a grande sized glass, but the final nail came with the announcement that they had every syrup except hazelnut. As I’ve stated a million times, the only syrup that truly compliments a decent coffee is hazelnut. Anything else is a pale substitute.

I was forced to substitute vanilla.

I sat in a comfortable chair and read. It was not the most enjoyable latte I’ve ever had.

Back at home I prep-ed dinner so we could go for drinks then home to dinner. As it turned out we wound up eating at 9.30pm so the prep-ing was necessary. In the meanwhilst, Mirinda worked in the garden, something she hasn’t done for a while. This is ahead of the gardeners coming tomorrow.

Then, eventually, we went for drinks where I heard all about St Louis, New Orleans and the Mississippi River.

I’ve included two photos I took in the park on my way into town. The beautiful blue sky was very soon replaced with grey clouds and, while it didn’t rain, the day was mostly dull.

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Real custard

I forgot to mention that Emma came into season earlier this week. While not as messy as Freya, she is still leaving little spots all over the place. She is also rather morose. It’s like she needs chocolate to cheer her up. At least that’s how it seems to me.

Leaving her to her woes, I went shopping, taking advantage of a very quiet Starbucks (school goes back on Monday so that’ll be that) and nice, easy stroll around Waitrose.

Fiona, Lauren and Jason bought us a hamper for Christmas and included was a Christmas pudding. Mirinda thought it would be nice to have as dessert tonight. Of course one can’t just have Christmas pudding. I was told to make custard.

According to Mirinda I make the best custard in the world. If so it’s because I copy Delia. Except when I make creme brulee, I always use Delia for any custard needs. It’s quick, easy and delicious. I really have no idea why people use powder when the real thing is so simple. And you know what all the ingredients are. People should care about what they ingest.

Not that I care about what other people ingest. In terms of ‘care’, I care more about the fact that Penrith, where I grew up, was the hottest place on earth at one point today. It was 48.9° which is ridiculously hot.

Dawn alerted me to the fact with a link to a Sky News report. I have no idea how she remembered I was from Penrith but I told her how, if the temperature climbed above 42°, as school kids, we’d be sent home. Instead of going home, we’d all head to the local swimming pool where the water was full of kids.

Crowding into an already crowded pool where the water was not particularly refreshing, was, in retrospect, not the best idea. While my secondary school didn’t have air conditioning, it did have big ceiling fans. The fans would have been better than being at the pool.

In fact, the whole idea that school was cancelled because of the heat seems very odd to me now. Being in, generally, big, airy classrooms with large ceiling fans, was going to be a lot better than anything we could get at home. In fact, most of us would probably just go home and play cricket in the road.

Mind you, I only remember it happening once and, looking at the average temperatures in Penrith from 1995 to 2017 (I left school in 1974) they rarely reached 35° let alone 42°.

Like Ivan Denisovich, the 42° temperature was probably set to be the most unlikeliest in order to ensure there was a limit but that it was rarely achieved.

Okay, I’m a cynic.

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Checking the decorator’s work

You can be blinded by the result and not see the mistakes at first. Then your wife points them out with an accusatory finger. The decorator has made a mistake and it’s my fault.

Except its not really my fault. I told him to paint the bathroom Adam Cream. I didn’t tell him to paint it Rose Pink.

Still, I thought the flat looked lovely. It was as if I’d walked into the wrong apartment. It looked so new and fresh.

Gone was the ghastly nylon carpet replaced by some gorgeous oak flooring.

New flat

I remember the first time we walked into the flat at Canary Wharf. I thought it was perfect. Bright, airy, just what we needed. But, over the years, I’ve come to hate the carpet. I hate the fact that all carpet is disgusting and is principally made up of old bits off shoes, dead skin, nails and general bodily secretions.

Now that has all changed.

Mind you, there was a lot of dust. This will, of course, soon be gone but when I arrived it coated everything. It was like the dusting of chocolate on a cappuccino. It made the floor quite slippery.

My job today, though was finding everything I’d secreted around the flat and put it all back the way I thought it was before Christmas.

I was a bit concerned when I couldn’t find the third pillow. Why someone steal an old pillow, I wondered. I searched high and low. To be fair, there’s not that many places to hide things in the flat.

Then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted the floral wheelie bag. I took it out of the cupboard and opened it up. There was the third pillow and the duvet which I’d forgotten about.

As the clock approached 3pm, my right leg was complaining so I packed up and left, knowing I’d be back to finish the job early next week.

Then came the long drawn out negotiations with the decorator. He’s returning on the 18th to fix a curtain pole and repaint the bathroom the correct colour.

New bedroom
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Stretching the legs

I set off for Farnham this morning at 8am. The weather was murky. I walked through a sort of heavy mist, wondering if I should have worn a raincoat.


I passed quite a few dog walkers dressed for a monsoon which made my fleece look a bit inadequate. It didn’t rain and I remained bone dry.

I had decided that I’d go to Starbucks if it wasn’t packed. There were about six people there so I decided to have my first latte for months.

I chatted with Chantelle while Sandra made my coffee. Everyone had had a lovely Christmas and quiet new years. Apparently. I then settled down to write my blog.

My pleasant solitude didn’t last very long. A man dressed as a woman sat down behind me and started talking really loudly. I thought it was a phone call.

I packed up and started to leave. Glancing around at the noise maker I realised there was no phone. The conversation was being had with a reflection in the window.

In Waitrose I was served by an older lady who, on discovering my Australian accent, told me how much she loved Sydney. She asked me how friends and relatives were being affected by the bushfires. Before I could answer she told me how she blamed the ‘do gooders’ for the ferocity and destruction.

When questioned further she blamed the Greens because they have stopped the yearly back burning.

That is a lie. It is completely, utterly wrong. I can only assume it’s a lie put about by people who want to destroy the planet. Like the coal lobby, petrol heads and the Australian government.

It’s one thing that my father-in-law thinks it’s true but completely another when some random check-out person in Farnham does as well.

This is one of the most fundamental of the Stupidity Rules. Feed people enough crap and they will start regurgitating it as the truth. I despair.

Anyway, I successfully managed to shop for the next two days (I’m off to the flat tomorrow) and made it home. I didn’t need a raincoat.

My right leg was aching a bit by the time I walked in the door but the knee was fine. I spent the rest of the day with it up and resting.


I had an email late in the day asking about someone I’d researched for Frensham ages ago. Searching through my four books of pencil notes, I managed to find him. It made me realise I should be indexing my work. This I started straight away.

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Perfect vision

A new decade awaits us now it’s 2020. I hate to think what will befall the world in the next ten years. The last ten were pretty dire. From the highs of the London Olympics to the lows of rabid nationalism and mass xenophobia. From the smart to the stupid.

I guess we’ll just have to see what happens. Fascism has been defeated before after a few million deaths and, I guess, it can be defeated again.

Speaking of pointless deaths, I spent another day mostly doing research. I’m working on the Caterham memorial. I’ve never been to Caterham. In fact I didn’t know where it was until I started their memorial.

One of the things I’ve discovered about Caterham is the number of illegitimate children that seemed to appear at the turn of the 20th century. More than the towns I’ve completed before Caterham anyway.

I’ve had a number of lads who went away with the same surname as their mother’s maiden name and not the name of the man she went on to marry. Most curious is the case of Ernest John Pearce.

Ernest’s mother was Alice. She was born Alice Lemm and married a man called George Pearce. George died in 1889 leaving her a widow with two children (Charles and Lillian).

Then, along comes a carpenter called Walter Goodman. In 1901 he claims to be Alice’s husband and Alice has had two children by him (Ernest and Walter junior). Ernest was born in 1893 so, obviously George wasn’t his father. And, according to the 1901 census, his surname is Goodman.

Moving on to 1911 and suddenly Alice is once more the Widow Pearce and Ernest has taken the Pearce surname. Walter Goodman, meanwhile, is now a lodger in their house.

When Ernest joined the army at the outbreak of the war, he enlisted as Pearce and died as Pearce. There was no mention of Goodman.

All very confusing and it took some unravelling but I managed to clear up the name issue.

My assumption is that Walter took up with Alice but they didn’t marry. When Ernest was old enough he realised he couldn’t really be a Goodman so he reverted to his mother’s married name. By 1911 Alice and Walter decided that they shouldn’t pretend they were married and told the census taker that Walter was just a lodger.

Of course, my ‘assumption’ is not fact so I can only mention it here. On the SGW website, the facts will remain as simply facts.

Having rested my knee for yet another day, I feel I’ll be ready to tackle the shopping tomorrow. I hope the weather is better than the last time I went in.

The last time I was in Farnham it was a bit grime
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Two blobs of caramel mousse

I have started a new tradition. After dining at the Chesil on New Year’s Eve, I will now attempt to watch a zombie movie before going to bed. Having managed this year, I have decided it should become the ‘thing I do’ just after the New Year gongs.

Of course, I have had New Year Viewing traditions before.

I used to watch Jools Holland’s Hootenany on the BBC until I discovered it was pre-filmed in November. This put me right off and I stopped watching it.

Then I started watching one of my Five Favourite Films. I used to try and watch all of them through the year, saving one for NYE. It worked for a couple of years but this year (2019) I haven’t managed to watch any of my favourites. It’s probably because Netflix has taken over our viewing lives and the DVD player has lain dormant for ages.

So, having dined at the Chesil tonight and journeyed home, I searched through the Netflix catalogue to discover a French/Canadian zombie film called Ravenous. Which is a very handy way to segue into dinner.

Back in September I’d booked our now traditional NYE dinner at the Chesil in Winchester. It’s always a gourmand-ical treat for both the eyes and the mouth. We really wanted to enjoy it, so we managed to avoid much food during the day.

I, of course, had my foot up while I worked on the tax and new attempts at budgeting and Mirinda was working, mostly, on a journal article. Halfway though the day she interrupted her work to take the girls to Hankley which all three enjoyed immensely.

It was all too soon time to don the old tweed suit and head down to Winchester.

NYE 2019 menu

Talking of my three piece suit, it’s not often I get a compliment from bar staff but the guy at the Chesil made a point of saying how good my suit looked. What with making Sophie squeal, this new suit of mine sure causes heads to turn.

In reciprocity, I complimented his neck wear which turned out to be a bit of loose material held together, artfully, with a blood donor’s pin. He explained he couldn’t find a tie so he improvised. I thought it looked really good.

The staff at the Chesil are always fun and tonight was no different. Our main waitress, who really knew her wine, also knew how to keep people entertained. We laughed and joked with her most of the night.

Halibut…or Halley’s Butt as I called it. Not in custard.

Obviously the food was superb, all seven courses, and the wine flight ensured that the liquid perfectly matched the solid. Even the giant bottle of port that accompanied the cheese course.

The dessert was especially good. Mirinda provided me with a title for this post when referring to the light coloured mounds either side of the chocolate mini slab.

Seriously good

Possibly the best bit of the night was the fact that my knee seems to be well on the way to mending. I managed the stairs at the Chesil (tricky when my knees are working) twice and the walk to and from Max. I have to go to the flat on Friday so it augurs well.

Just as we arrived home, the fireworks started. Freya wasn’t a bit bothered but Emma wasn’t very happy. Of course we didn’t make more of a fuss than we normally do. Then, while Freya went to bed with Mirinda, Emma curled up with me to watch the zombie movie.

The movie was very odd. I might talk about it tomorrow. Suffice it to say I went to bed very late. Or early in the new decade.

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Great Swede

Our daffodils have already started appearing in the Candy Bed. According to the RHS website, it’s because of the warmer weather we’ve been having. Which makes sense. They go on to say that the bulbs start growing underground as soon as they are planted. Then, as the weather warms up, the green shoots begin to appear above ground. Apparently they will be fine for a normal spring flowering. Whenever that happens next year.

Some daffs

It seems that if the weather suddenly turns cold then the growth just slows down. Even if it snows, the snow will protect the shoots by keeping them warm. So, no need to worry then.

While on the subject of the weather…Greta Thunberg guest edited the Today programme this morning. At one point it featured an interview with her father, Svante. He seems like a caring father to me. This flies in the face of lots of old white men who claim he must be a rubbish parent.

Greta also had her first chat with David Attenborough. This was lovely. A 16 year old chatting to a 93 year old about the fate of the planet. Both of them care deeply about the world and the damage that is being done. Greta said it was David who shone the light for her to see in one of his early nature programmes. He said it was sad that no-one listened back in the 90’s.

Someone on Twitter commented on her guest editing and, because of a typo, called her Great Thunberg. I think that’s quite an apt typo.

More daffs

I’m still resting my knee so didn’t actually leave the house beyond the back garden. Mirinda made up for my static attitude by going into Farnham and trying out the new bookshop/cafe. While not particularly impressed by the service, she managed to control her temper. Bravo.

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One leg to stand on

Gout, Paris, Florence, lots of walking. My right knee is paying the price for my excesses. It is very painful to the extent that I have to walk with my right leg bent backwards rather than the proper way. It’s very difficult to support myself on it at times. Fortunately my cane and my left leg work very well. I guess that makes me lucky.

Because of my knee, I am having a rest from unnecessary walking. This is by order of Dr Mirinda. Officially Dr Mirinda.

Unnecessary walking extended to sitting in the car with my book while she took the girls for a walk at Frensham. We decided it made more sense taking them for a walk straight from the kennels rather than go home, give them a bath then go out again.

Of course I had to go and pay and collect them because Mirinda had a falling out with the staff there once. She swore that it wouldn’t happen again but I have spent years building up an excellent relationship and do not want it spoiled. A read in the car was worth it.

And boy were the girls excited.

As soon as they saw me they went mad and didn’t stop until I put them in the sink for their customary post-kennel bath. Emma was so excited she stood on the central console in Max, which is Freya’s spot.

Right before Emma shoved Freya out of the way

There’s something extra special about having them home. They brighten everything.

The walk at Frensham, according to Mirinda, was very crowded. Given the weather over the last few weeks, it makes sense that people would be flocking into the outside. According to both Neighbour Dave and Carol, apart from Christmas Day, it hasn’t stopped raining here.

Mirinda, however, knows a few ‘off the beaten track’ places at Frensham and managed to avoid the bulk of the crowds. Still, she only walked for an hour before we headed back home. I think she was worried I’d be bored. Silly Mirinda. Apart from my book I also had a couple of weeks of The Archers to catch up on.

At home we settled in for the night with two beautifully clean and still boisterous puppies. I cooked salmon and avocado and we then finished watching the newest incarnation of War of the Worlds.

And I have to say that it didn’t impress me overly much. Nice idea badly done, would be my review. Also that Woking looked altogether too pretty and unrealistic. The reason HG Wells had the Martians destroy Woking was because he disliked it so much.

Still, it was only based on the original book so I guess the gentrification of Woking could just as easily be invented as well.

And we’re not alone in our opinion. Reviews I’ve read are generally not favourable. At least it was only three episodes.

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