Easter in September

I was up bright and early today. That’s not unusual. I’m up bright and early every day. I don’t always need or want to be but there you go. This morning, however I had to be in order to be ready for Vinnie.

Vinnie was coming to service the boiler following last week’s fix by Tom. And, true to Tom’s word, he turned up exactly at 8am. He gave the boiler a damn good servicing and was gone before 9am. A thoroughly efficient and pleasant fellow. He then walked across the road for his next job.

My morning was spent sorting out yesterday’s issue with the cottage. Which I did. I have to say, I reckon I’d have been a brilliant lawyer. Better than some, anyway.

The afternoon was spent in building a website for Mirinda using Wix. An excellent bit of software, I have to say. When I think back to the days of hard coding and how much better Dreamweaver made it all, Wix is something else again. I was so enthralled, the afternoon just slipped away.

Then it was Date Night. And this week we were back at Pulpo Negro and its tapas delights.

This marked my second trip to Alresford this week and, while the first was fun, the second was totally delicious. Of course, not everyone was happy that it was Date Night.

While we headed off to Spanish Hampshire, she made do with a Twistie stick, something which took her mind off our departure. Well, for 30 seconds at least. Freya, on the other paw, made her Twistie treat last twice as long.

In keeping with their usual practice, there were some new tapas to be had at our favourite restaurant. Sadly, the smashed egg had gone but, in its place, there was an amazing, burnt salad which really defies description. Well, apart from the fact that it was delicious.

The combination of flavours was superb but the addition of charcoal just made it exceptional.

There were a few other new plates (Mirinda had a tempura oyster and slider or tiny burger) and a few oldies that are definitely still goodies. However, everything paled into almost insignificance when we were presented with dessert. Which, incidentally, was brilliantly sold by our waitress. She used to sell houses, now it’s desserts. She’s very good at dessert selling so a loss to real estate is a major gain to dining.

I didn’t really need the hard sell as I had seen the dessert on Instagram and my mouth was already watering.

Presenting, the Pulpo Negro torrijas:

Traditionally served at Easter in Spain, it is just amazing. What a perfect end to Date Night.

Today, this happened

In Farnham in 1896, Charles Sturt wrote:

The hop-picking has been in full swing for over a week, – a week of the miserablest weather. It has rained in all possible ways, from the insidious drizzle to the roaring impatient thundershower, but always it has rained, and for the most part a steady business-like downpour has prevailed. In this, sheltered or not according as they can contrive it with an old umbrella or so, the wretched pickers have stood by their baskets, ten or twelve hours a day…

The Journals of Charles Sturt (1890-1927) Volume 1

My dad often told me about his awful Christmas holidays spent in the hop fields of Kent. His ‘holiday’ was all about picking the horrid, sticky stuff with any little wages going to his father. He was eight at the time.

The other thing is that while the weather was clearly rubbish in 1896, we are now enjoying a wonderful period of September summer. No umbrella required.

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Can you ride a horse through the park?

I am constantly amazed with my own statistics. Though I’m also amazed at how I miss milestones. For instance, I recently passed 2.5 million words on this blog. The total was 2,484,065 words on July 20 this year. Whatever, that’s a lot of writing, mostly my own. They are contained within 4,333 posts. Actually, 4334 if I include this one. For something that started as a way of recording our holidays, it has taken on a life of its own.

I think the most amazing thing is how I still write, every day. I am not known for persevering at things, particularly regular things, so the fact that I still write every day after more than a decade, is pretty much a shock. I often wonder what I find to write about.

Take today, for instance. Being a Wednesday, I went shopping.

After shopping I went to Starbucks where I chatted with Katy as she made my latte. She asked me if I’d walked in. I said that I don’t drive so I don’t really have a choice.

Katy suggested the bus but I turned my nose up at that suggestion, saying I don’t care for the idea of sitting, masked and isolated while being driven around by a masked driver, surrounded by people too scared to breath.

I then wondered whether it was allowed for people to ride a horse through the park. Katy thought this was probably okay, but she wasn’t sure how I’d go once I reached Castle Street and Long Garden Walk. I did suggest that there was a perfectly serviceable hitching rail outside Waitrose. Though the horses would probably have to share it with a dog or two.

Walking home, I wondered if it would be possible. Mind you, I’d need a stable in the back garden. And a horse. And quite a few horse riding lessons. I quickly dismissed the idea, thinking it made more sense to stick with Shank’s pony rather than a real one.

Back at home (possibly the most written phrase in this blog) I noticed that Nicktor had put some of his photographs of the Alresford game on his Flickr account. Unusually, for Nicktor, there were only a few. This possibly says more about the game than some change of habit from Nicktor.

I don’t generally like photographs of myself but Nicktor took this one of me last night which I think is great.

Mirinda reckons it looks a bit like a still from a Scandi crime drama. I reckon it’s delightfully moody and highlights my beard perfectly.

Speaking of Mirinda, she managed to finish work at a reasonable hour, and so we took the girls to Frensham which, given the heatwave we are currently experiencing (30° on my office outside thermometer) was full of kids paddling in the Pond. The delightful squeals and safely distanced swans were delightful.

It’s great that there are still some people unconcerned with The Great Fear, allowing their children to behave like normal kids.

I made Messina style lamb for dinner and, not for the first time, Mirinda raved about it as if she’d never had it before.

Today, this happened

Today, in 1831 and in the House of Commons in London, Colonel Evans, the gallant gentleman MP, presented a petition from a Mr and Mrs Deacle. He had been accused of not presenting the petition as soon as he received it but, he claimed, he presented it as soon as he was back in the House. Which was today.

The Deacles, a farming family from Owlesbury in Hampshire, were victims of the Swing Riots the previous year. A ‘modern’ threshing machine owned by Thomas Deacle had been taken out into a field, set upon and destroyed by the rioters. Obviously the family felt not a little bit concerned for their safety. Though they didn’t figure their safety would be compromised by the authorities.

During the riots, and because the army wasn’t doing anything to help, Thomas Deacle and a couple of local farmers, decided the best way forward was to talk to the rampaging mob and buy them off with a couple of shillings in increased wages. This would only work, said the rioters, if the farmers would go and demand the same from other farmers who were not so generous.

Following this, Thomas Deacle, and his wife Caroline, were arrested and, they claimed, manhandled by William Bingham Baring in the course of the arrest. They were arrested because the Hampshire Magistrates, incorrectly as it happens, accused them of aiding and abetting the rioters.

The charge against Caroline Deacle was that she had ridden a grey horse at the head of a bunch of rioters, leading them to destruction, inferno and pillage.

While the use of handcuffs was deemed unnecessary by the Court, Baring thought they were essential. It was also considered necessary to carry Caroline Deacle across the yard and plonk her unceremoniously into a “…cart without springs until a post-chaise could be procured…” Baring is also said to have hit Thomas with a stick. Presumably not at the same time.

Poor Caroline collapsed in court and was, subsequently, not charged with anything. I guess the image of a Boudica riding at the head of a rampaging army did not quite go with the poor farmer’s wife collapsing at the thought of a court case.

Thomas, on the other hand, was charged for having a hand in the riots. He stood in the dock to be judged. Except the court couldn’t find any witnesses and ended up throwing the case out of court. So, a big waste of everyone’s time.

According to Hansard, MP Fyshe Palmer said that, Thomas and Caroline Deacle were victims of circumstance. The Swing Riots had surprised the Magistrates of various counties and their actions were all a bit haphazard and based on reflex rather than facts. Mr Palmer said that the Deacles demands for some sort of restitution for what they had been put through, were only right and correct.

Eventually the matter was returned to the Courts who decided that the Deacles should be paid £50 in compensation for what they were forced to go through at the hands of Justice.

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Do you have a mask, father?

Our kettle has been slowly dying. The automatic switch off has decided not to switch on which means I have to either stand, holding the switch down or put something weighty on it. Obviously the former won’t work because watch pots never boil, so…

A while ago, an order of gin turned up and included, in the beautifully made cardboard tubes, four squares of composite wood used to protect the bottles. I have found them excellent for the gardener’s coffee cups outside. It seems they have another very effective use.

The beauty of the squares is that they are heavy enough to hold the switch down yet light enough to be bounced off by the boiling action in the kettle. Which was all well and good but, basically, we needed a new kettle. Which arrived today.

The old kettle was consigned to the rubbish. Which, pretty much describes Alresford Town Football Club’s performance tonight.

This was my third game barracking for the home team. My unbroken (though decidedly small) record was smashed to smithereens when Hamworthy finished the worthy 0-4 winners. It was fortunate that Nicktor bought both his boys tonight because otherwise I think the night would have been far from particularly enthralling.

Also, I managed to get a photo of Nicktor and the way he watches football these days.

Having seen James last week, it was great seeing him again and Matt this week. Actually I haven’t seen Matt for ages so that was a nice catch-up.

Obviously we started in a pub (the Bell Inn) where Matt demonstrated his ability to drink a pint quicker than is normally required. I guess he was very thirsty.

Then, on the way back to the football ground, Nicktor insisted that he wanted to buy three tons of hot chips from a fish and chip shop. Matt also wanted vast quantities of deep fried potato. As we approached the shop, James asked, in a very plummy Surrey-type accent, “Do you have a mask, father?” To which Nicktor triumphantly withdrew well-used mask from his pocket.

It made me wonder why it is thought necessary to wear a mask to get hot fish and chips. There is a counter separating customer from fryer and, probably, a perspex screen. Why is this necessary? And, more importantly, why do people do it? I guess it gives people some sort of comfort during this time of The Great Fear, as I’m going to start calling it.

But, back at the football ground, we met Fat Andy who is not particularly fat but is named Andy. I’d never met Fat Andy before, but he proved an entertaining addition to our little band. Actually, the whole social aspect of going to the football tonight was splendid. And thoroughly enjoyed. This is due to Andy, Nicktor, James and Matt all behaving, more or less, normally. Even in the midst of crazy pointlessness.

Just in passing, and as a weird way to finish this post, following a discussion about goats in olive trees (which Nicktor and I have seen) Nicktor told a story of when he had to go and collect three pints of fresh milk from a dairy. Declaring that fresh milk from a cow is spectacularly delicious, he told us how he drank all three pints on the way home.

While not that impressive as a story, I thought it eerie that when I reached home and looked on Flicker, I spotted a very interesting photo. Perhaps this was a very young and fresh faced Nicktor and a lady friend, out on the town in days gone by.

Today, this happened

Tonight in Mexico, in 1810, a group of armed men paid a visit to the Dolores sheriff, demanding that he release a load of prisoners. They succeeded in freeing 80. This action was ordered by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (1753-1811), a great Mexican hero who was called Zorro at school.

Miguel was a Spanish Roman Catholic priest who ended up being not just a leader during the Mexican War of Independence but also came to be known as the Father of the Nation.

He moved to Dolores in the 1790’s and was amazed at the richness of the soil. He decided he would teach the poor how to grow food. Both the Spanish import/export people and the wealthy of Dolores thought this was a bad idea. They, after all, wanted to keep it all to themselves.

Don Miguel gave an impassioned speech, pleading with people to join his cause, using the old ‘the lot is mightier than the few’ argument. Afterwards, he was a bit concerned with being arrested which is why he sent his brothers and a few other supporters to free the prisoners on 15 September 1810.

The next day he gave another rousing speech (it became known as the Grito de Dolores (Cry of Dolores)) which resulted in him gathering together an army of 90,000 poor farmers and leading them into battle.

At first everything went well. He roamed across Mexico preaching about freedom and killing people. Or, rather, his army killed people. Obviously, being a man of God, Miguel wouldn’t have killed anyone.

However, all good things and all that, his untrained army ran into 6,000 professional Spanish soldiers. The farmers saw the writing on the wall and decided, being poor and alive was better than being poor and dead. A lot of them ran away.

Still leading a rapidly diminishing army, Miguel was taken prisoner at Norias de Baján (the Wells of Baján), beaten up a bit then executed.

At his execution, Miguel said “Though I may die, I shall be remembered forever; you all will soon be forgotten.” This turns out to be true because no-one remembers who killed him but the whole of Mexico knows Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla.

Interestingly, while Miguel is heralded as the Father of the Nation, it was another chap, Agustín de Iturbide, who was the man responsible for winning the war which gave Mexico freedom from Spain.

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Belongs to the realm of history

I forgot to mention last Friday how much Nigel raved, during our FATN recording, about Nicktor’s photo which was published in the Herald last week. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone describe a photo better or suggest that Nicktor should take photos for the nationals. Anyway, here’s the photo and accompanying story.

We both agreed that it was, indeed, a most impressive photograph. Given that Nicktor regularly takes about 35,000 photos per innings, I guess he has to manage at least one good one.

As opposed to me. I regularly take a photograph, when I don’t forget, in order to add an image to this blog. Sometimes I go a bit crazy and take three. Today, being a Monday, I took a photo on my walk in.

And the park was pretty much as deserted as it looks. Obviously there were the usual joggers – some said good morning, others said nothing – but apart from a few distant dog walkers, I didn’t see anyone.

Waitrose was similar and Starbucks delightfully so. Things only got a bit hectic by the time I reached West Street on my way to Smiths (for the post office). A police wagon was parked outside the dry cleaner and six police officers and someone who could have been a social worker, had surrounded the homeless guy outside Argos. Or, rather, the shop that once was Argos but has been empty for years.

Before it was Argos, it was Woolies but that ‘belongs to the realm of history’.

The poor guy has been camped out in the doorway for ages. He has a dog and all his possessions huddled with him. He’s never, as far as I can tell, been any trouble. But, of course, that doesn’t stop people moaning and complaining and getting the police involved.

Surely a better solution would be to open up the empty space and let him sleep inside.

Sorry, I forgot myself for a moment. That is, clearly, impossible. No tenant is better than a homeless person.

I have no idea what happened but I’m sure I’ll read about it in the Herald next week. Speaking of which, it appears that our MP, Jeremy Hunt, has had some sort of effect on the town. All the plastic barriers have vanished in the Borough and been replaced with plastic planters full of flowers. Now, if he could just get rid of the cars, that would be brilliant.

Back at home, I applied myself to a big job in the garden. Given we were experiencing a heatwave, it was obviously the right time to do it.

I had to move the big compost bin to behind the greenhouse rather than in the outer reaches of The Former Residence of Xun Ma. Before I could do that, I had to clear a load of stuff from beneath the yew tree. Fortunately, Gardener Dave and Polish Andy had emptied the compost bin into the beehives, which made it considerably easier.

Then, having moved the stuff then the compost bin, I had to build a second pot trap.

I had previously built (from bits and pieces of old wood) a small pot trap under the conifer. Mirinda had other ideas and, seeing an opportunity and grasping it, told the gardeners to turn it into a leaf trap. The pots, released from their corral, were scattered between the conifer and the fence. This made them, basically, inaccessible.

So, I built (from different bits and pieces of old wood) a second pot trap behind the conifer.

Hopefully this will be the final pot trap I have to make. Though, I doubt it. The shed will have to go at some stage which will mean moving the pots again. I sat back and admired my work, trying not to think of the next trap I’ll eventually make.

After dinner, I settled back in my office to watch this week’s webinar from the Western Front Association. It was, unusually from the Eastern Front and was called The Great Siege of Przemyjl. It was presented by Professor Alexander Watson.

Przemyjl (pronounced ‘Shemish’ with the merest hint of the letter ‘p’ at the start) is now in Poland but, in 1914 was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It was in an area called Galicia which I found a bit confusing given there’s a Galicia in Spain. Still, that aside, the webinar was excellent and full of stuff I had no idea about.

For starters, according to Prof Watson, had the Russian army managed to take Przemyjl at the first time of asking (October 1914) then the First World War would have probably ended soon afterwards.

But, through errors on both sides which resembled the Keystone Cops more than anything else, the Russians didn’t take Przemyjl in 1914 and the war rumbled on.

The Russians did, however, manage to completely obliterate Przemyjl in 1915 but, by that time, the war in the West was inexorably headed for longevity.

The talk was excellent. So much so that I immediately bought the Professor’s book, The Fortress afterwards, for a bit of bedtime reading.

The title of the post comes from a quote made by someone regarding Przemyjl and the state of the fortifications ‘protecting’ the town in 1914.

Today, this happened

In 1741, complete with elaborate wig, Handel finished the Messiah today. It took him 23 (or 24, depending on the source you read) days and is a credit to him given it is still sung and recorded over 270 years later. I doubt that there are many people who have not heard at least part of the Messiah. It’s a pity George Frideric (or Frederic, depending on the source) isn’t getting royalties because he’d be loaded by now.

The first time it was recorded in almost it’s entirely was in 1928 when it was put onto 78rpm discs. I don’t know how many. And, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was how I first heard it, given I grew up in a house with lots of 78rpm discs.

Handel normally wrote operas but decided to make Messiah an oratorio, which is a piece for orchestra and voices but without acting or elaborate costumes. It has a popular feel to it which probably explains its continued success.

There was a lot of nonsense at the time that Handel wrote Messiah under the guidance of some heavenly inspiration which explains why it only took 23 (or 24) days and is so brilliant. However, historians point to the fact that he wrote most of his stuff in super quick time so why should his Messiah be any different?

Mind you, the first public performance wasn’t until April 1742, and he is known to have fiddled with it before-hand. He is also known to have made changes over the years, never seemingly, 100% satisfied with the finished product. So much for divine inspiration then.

Moving right up to May 2020, the wonderfully named Self-Isolation Choir, released a version recorded, you guessed it, in isolation. It’s on Youtube, here:

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The day of delight

There is always the risk in this country that, when you are wishing for good weather in order to enjoy an outdoor function, you will wind up getting drenched or blown about or snowed in. It doesn’t matter what time of year, or what type of event, the chances are not good that the weather will play ball. That does sound somewhat cynical but with good reason. We have had many wet and/or windy days out.

So, it was with certain misgivings that we booked to attend not one but two outdoor events today. The second event, an outdoor screening of the most recent movie version of Emma, was especially weather critical given the size of the screen. And with nowhere to run.

The first event of the day was the Hampshire Country Sports Day organised brilliantly by the Countryside Alliance. We’ve never been but given we felt cheated out of the Surrey Show this year felt this might be a bit of a consolation. It was so much more.

Set in wonderful rolling farmland near East Meon, a big ‘ring’ had been cordoned off with plastic netting and surrounded by a long line of stalls selling everything you could possibly imagine you would need in the countryside. Particularly gin. There were two gin stalls beside each other. Needless to say we purchased some from the local distiller.

Okay, one of them is vodka but, once tasted, marmalade vodka is not easily ignored.

Gin aside (and the excellent pint of Bowman’s Swift One I had) the highlight was the relay race. And the History of the Shotgun. And the two guys commentating. And the…actually, the whole event was the highlight.

The relay race, though, needs description. We always love the odd things. Like terrier racing and the scurry but this relay race left them both in the shade.

Imagine, if you can, two teams racing around a small circuit, one section at a time, each section ‘tagging’ the next as they complete the circuit. So, basically, a relay race. Now imagine that the first group is three people, a quad bike with a trailer, and some poles. The second group is a person with a dog and the third group consists of riders on ponies.

What happens is the quad bikes race out onto the showground and two of the people leap off and start building hurdles by attaching the poles in the trailer to uprights already in the ground. There are two sets of hurdles. They then have to race back to the start.

It’s then the turn of the person with the dog. The dog has to leap over the hurdles and go through a tunnel in order to complete the course. We didn’t see the heats but the final featured a small terrier against a large lab. (The terrier won.)

Next comes the horses. Three of them, in relay, leap over the hurdles then head back to the start. Finally, the quad bikes re-appear and dismantle the hurdles, finishing with the poles neatly placed in the trailer.

It was insane. Incredibly funny and marvellously entertaining, aided and abetted by the constant hilarious babbling of the two commentators. It was truly wonderful.

Also wonderful was the fact that everything felt so normal. There were sterilising stations everywhere and a sort of one way system that was doomed to failure but there were few masks (I saw two) and everyone was having a fine day. We’re going on the mailing list for next year. Not one to miss.

Unfortunately, dinner in a pub was ruined by Covid nonsense so I’m not going to say anything other than we shall wait to return once life is normal again.

But this day of delight was not over yet.

Following on from last Sunday’s picnic on the south lawn of Chawton House, we were booked into their first outdoor screening. We came armed with blanket, fleeces and puppies. In retrospect, we could have done with some thicker fleeces as the puppies only provided so much warmth. Particularly an almost constantly shivering Emma.

For a day of heat and blue sky, the night was bloody cold. At least our picnic blanket is plastic backed otherwise we’d have caught pneumonia. And we all know: if ain’t Covid, it ain’t gettin’ treated.

Speaking of the dreaded disease, I didn’t see a single mask. And there was a huge attendance. It was so good to see. It was so normal.

The movie was interesting. Not as interesting as the dead things that Freya kept growling at and which seem to inhabit the Wilderness, but interesting nonetheless.

It’s hard not to compare Emma versions given there’s so many but this one had a few interesting things to say about servants. They were always in the background (or foreground) and the main cast just ignored them. We, the audience, were very aware of them but the main characters were not. The servants were just there. It was a fact of life which did not require notice.

I thought it was very good though possibly a bit heavy handed. It’s probably because subtlety is wasted on the current generation of movie goers. I don’t know. I enjoyed the point and that says it all, really. Also, as a directorial debut by Autumn de Wilde, it was very good.

Of the cast, I thought Bill Nighy was perfect as Mr Woodhouse, Miranda Hart delightful as Miss Bates and Josh O’Connor (who we keep seeing in everything these days) superb as Mr Elton.

Emma, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, was an interesting interpretation which I didn’t really like. I think Emma should be likeable to the audience in order to underline when she’s not. Ms Taylor-Joy was excellent but Emma was lacking in the innocence that she should have.

I am not an Austen authority but I do know what I like. I liked the film but not necessarily all of the interpretations.

We weren’t that keen on watching it from a blanket on a cold night. Next time (oh, please let there be a next time) we’ll bring chairs and old people blankets for our laps.

Today, this happened

In 1930 Finnish athlete Paavo Johannes Nurmi ran 20 kms in 1:04:38.4 in Stockholm. This was a new world record for long distance running. He held it for six years until Juan Carlos Zabala of Argentina reset it to 1:04:00.2. The current (September 13, 2020) world record for 20kms by a man is held by Zersenay Tadese. He managed under an hour in 2006. His time of 56:01 is the male record time. The fastest female over 20km is from Kenya. Her name is Florence Kiplagat and she ran a time of 1:01:54 at the 2015 Barcelona half marathon event.

The 20km event is not a recognised Olympic event (though it was in the 1936 Olympics, where Juan Carlos Zabala broke the record) and is bound by some strange rules and regulations. It is held in various places around the world, sometimes alongside other track and field events.

Incidentally, Kiplagat appears to be quite a popular name in Kenya. It means son of Lagat – or daughter, I assume.

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Fifty tenth of March

After a rather leisurely start to the day spent variously in the extension, the library, the terrace and my office, we headed over to Frensham for the obligatory brunch. Today, the weather being delightful, we sat in the shack at the back. It was perfect.

After brunch, Mirinda set off for one of her two hour walks while I settled down to watch a Frensham XI play some other XI at Hollowdene. Unfortunately, I didn’t note down the two teams or any other details which means I won’t find out who was playing or what happened until someone updates the website. I have found, that the website is only updated straight away for the first division teams.

Still, teams and results aside, there was some great batting (particularly from the Frensham opener, James) and a wonderful caught and bowled by the opposition. Very hard, fast and reflexive.

Meanwhile, I was sat a bench away from one of the Frensham (not) walking wounded. He arrived with his wife who set up a wicker box with two big cushions on top. He then managed to man-handle his right leg onto it.

Throughout the game, various team members came and went and chatted to him about his knee surgery. It sounded horrendous. Even by the fourth telling, it was still horrendous. I was rather glad when the fifth chap said he didn’t want to hear the grizzly details.

Eventually, the knee guy was left alone with a rather serious chap and they talked about shares in a business that the serious chap was thinking of selling. That’s where this post title came from. Being a bench away, their conversation wasn’t always as clear as it could have been. What I overheard and noted down may have not been what was actually said.

In the photo of the Frensham pavilion above, the woman in red, sitting alone on the bench, is the daughter of one of the players. At one point her phone went flat and she had to borrow her dad’s. He was in the outfield and their conversation was very easy to hear. She eventually met a friend and they went to the Holly Bush for a drink.

I have no idea who the girl is in the red chair in the right foreground. She didn’t move for the entire two hours I was there. I can only assume she was related or attached to someone on the field.

The chaps all standing around the clubhouse are, obviously, Frensham players, mostly batsmen, scorers and a greensman – shorts and blue top.

Back at home, I was chained to the kitchen for a bit as I made a loaf of paleo bread then saffron lamb shanks both of which filled the house with delicious cooking smells. Both tasted lovely. Even if I do say so myself.

In the meanwhilst, Mirinda had a long and satisfying Skype session with Amanda.

Today, this happened

In 1877, in the Supreme Court of South Australia, Robert Jackson (30) was charged with obtaining, by false pretences, from Henry Barnes, refreshments and money to the value of £2, another £2 worth of lodgings and food from Henry Hammond and £1 10s from a third man, Thomas Arthur Stewart.

Jackson had originally pleaded not guilty but, hearing the evidence stacking up against him, he decided to change his plea to guilty. The judge deferred the sentencing for later consideration. Which is odd given he pleaded guilty to the offences.

Surely the judge could have saved a lot of time, money and effort by just saying something like “Okay, Mr Jackson, you can now go to prison for [insert statutory time limit here] years and I hope you’ll learn that crime does not pay!” And everyone could have gone home.

More serious was the case of sheep stealing levelled against Thomas Jones, himself a sheep farmer. According to John Reid, sheep farmer of Betaloo, he was down between 1000 and 1100 head of sheep when he mustered his flock in July. That’s a lot of sheep to be missing, if you ask me. I guess he didn’t name them all.

Reid went into great detail with the court, explaining how his branding system worked. Or, rather, systems. He had different brands for different classes of sheep in his flock. The court sat in rapt attention as he told them about clipping the ears of some, dating others either 1874, 1875 or 1876, and branding others with the ‘devil’s claw’. He also detailed how, with lambs not fit for the butcher, the marks were crossed out by subsequent brands.

Following his speech, the judge asked the prisoner for his side of this long and detailed story. Jones claimed that he had no idea how Reid’s sheep came to be part of his equally sizeable flock. He claimed he’d bought a load of new sheep at the Bowman sales. He shrugged. The judge returned his shrug.

The judge threw the case out, declaring Thomas Jones as being not guilty. There’s no mention in the court report from the South Australian Advertiser of Reid’s reaction.

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Moisturising the dryness that is local news

Shopping this morning wore the guise of opposites. On the one hand, someone who was clearly existing in an alternate universe while on the other, someone living a normal life but being generous with cheese. It’s these contrasts that allow me to forget the nonsense around me and smile to myself. Like a loon.

I was at the cheese counter in Waitrose, requesting a couple of blocks of Charmer (Mirinda’s favourite) and some petit basque when Rachael, the lady serving me, asked if I liked chilli. An unexpected question, I thought, but seemingly harmless enough. I said I did like a bit of chilli.

She then asked me if I’d like some free cheese. Now, I don’t know about anyone else but an offer of free cheese is going to make me react a lot quicker than one about chilli.

Apparently, when small wedges of cheese are approaching their ‘end date’, the cheese server can offer them to customers. I find it interesting because, as far as I’m concerned, cheese doesn’t really have an ‘end date’. You just cut the outside bits off.

I thanked her very much as I tucked away my free cheese. She told me to let the check out person know it’s free after they’d scanned it through. It had a helpful, signed sticker on it. That’s how I knew her name was Rachael.

When I reached the check out and informed the young lad that it was ‘on him’ he happily removed the £0.79 from the till receipt. Okay, it wasn’t a lot but the thought and action were far more valuable.

As I was leaving Waitrose, an unmasked and grinning woman walked in, plastic bag in hand, yelling at the top of her voice “Flowerpot man, Patrick Litchfield!” I thought it quite lucky I was leaving.

There was no Starbucks for me today as I had to get home in time to join Nigel and Tim online for the recording of this week’s FATN. And what a joy it was from start to finish. Very chatty with lots of blathering and bits of news to break it up. I’ve been looking forward to reading with Nigel and it was not a disappointment. In fact, Nigel provided me with the title of this post.

Not for the first time, I really hope someone (other than me) actually listens. A bit of feedback would be excellent but I realise I’ll probably never get any. Unless it’s bad, of course. Bad feedback is very quickly passed on.

Freshly aglow from the recording, we then visited the lawyers in order to sign some papers regarding the (please!) sale of the cottage. We met with Aneta who slid papers across the big conference desk for us to sign, explaining the rest of the process which we’ve probably been through more times than she has. Though, more often with Completion.

Rather than just heading home, we decided to pop into The Barista Lounge in Downing Street for a latte and tea. It used to be a student run place but I think it’s more adult run now. Whatever, the coffee was really good and the little courtyard garden an absolute joy. It’s only a pity it doesn’t open each day until 10am because I’d happily have my morning coffee there.

Oh, and the reason Rachael asked me about chilli was because the free cheese had specks of red chilli in it. Free AND spicy!

Today, this happened

Back in 1522, today, a chap was born to upper class but poor parents. His name was Ulisse Aldrovandi, and he became one of history’s foremost botanists. It’s also rumoured that he coined the word ‘geology’ but who knows?

Linnaeus and Buffon both thought of Ulisse as the father of natural science studies. He managed to collect, over his lifetime, 7,000 specimens for which he provided descriptions. Following his death, his collection was bequeathed to the Senate of Bologna. It was housed in various buildings belonging to the Senate over the years but then, eventually, was broken up and, figuratively, spread to the four winds.

Not satisfied with the real, he also wrote a couple of books about the imaginary, sketching some miraculous creatures such as the Harpie (see below) and numerous types of dragon.

By Jean-Baptiste Coriolan – University of Oklahoma, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26455732

He wasn’t backwards in coming forwards with his theories which managed to get him in trouble more than a few times. The church, obviously, had him up on heresy charges and, during an argument about gardens, he was prevented from all public positions for five years. That was in Bolognia. Naturally, he knew someone who was related to the Pope. He appealed for his sentence to be removed. The Pope waved his magic ring and Ulisse was pardoned.

He also knew Francesco de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (1574-1587). In fact, they were great friends in that way that the Medici family had of embracing the brilliant of their time.

Ulisse died in 1605 aged 82 which, I have to say, seems like a very long time…for the time.

And, as an addendum, the lunar wrinkle ridge, Dorsa Aldrovandi, is named after him.

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Toasted pretzel ice cream

The night we’ve long been waiting for arrived tonight. It was our first dinner out at the Chesil Rectory in Winchester since…well, since New Year’s Eve, 2019. It’s our ‘celebration restaurant’ so we don’t go a lot, but we do go a few times a year and nine months is a long time between courses.

Of course, dinner was at the end of the day, as it should be. The morning was all about editing the Herald for my FATN recording this week and the afternoon was about waiting for the plumber to come and fix whatever was ailing the central heating.

Tom, the plumber, is a very jolly fellow and a delight to have in the house. Not only is he very personable, he’s also a bloody good plumber. This is the second time he’s been to us and the second time he’s fixed our problem with a minimum of fuss. Or mess. He even takes his shoes off at the door.

As I was booking in a boiler service with him, Bruce from across the road asked me if Tom was any good ie would I recommend him. Though I was not in the best position to say he wasn’t, I had no problem giving an across the road recommendation.

After leaving us, I saw Tom disappear behind the hedge opposite, hopefully in order to collect another job.

I then had to return to finish the editing before, eventually, getting spruced up for Date Night.

I don’t normally make that much effort for Date Night – I might wear a shirt – but the Chesil is special. It calls for The Suit to make one of its infrequent appearances.

It marks the first time for the suit and beard combination and I reckon they go quite well together. Mind you, I realise I could do with a haircut but I’m not going for a trim until I can do so maskless. Of course, it won’t be a ‘trim’ by then but, there you go.

Ignoring the hair, the food, wine and general waitress chat at the Chesil was exactly the same as it’s always been: marvellous. They’ve lost staff and have had to employ new people but they have managed to maintain the same excellent service and bonhomie that makes it so special.

Something else that makes it very special indeed, is, of course, the food. I had the rabbit turnover followed by the plaice, both of which were sensational. Mirinda’s duck egg then duck were equally divine. And the 2018 Las Parcelas rioja we had was simply liquid perfection in a bottle.

In my never ending bid to try all ice cream flavours no matter how odd, I had to have the molten chocolate dessert because it featured toasted pretzel ice cream. I know, I know, I’m not a big chocolate eater but I couldn’t just ask for the ice cream. And I am well pleased that I didn’t.

The molten chocolate was actually really good and not super sweet and sickly. It went surprisingly well with the recommended dessert wine. Our server, Kayleigh, is the wine pairing expert at the Chesil. I told her what a superb job she did with the dessert wine pairing. The light Recioto Valpolicella, perfectly complimented the rich chocolate.

However, all of that pales into insignificance when the toasted pretzel ice cream is tasted. Brilliant, is all I have to say.

It was, all in all, the most wonderful Date Night.

I should add that Mirinda was complaining that each week our meal report features a photo of her with a glass of wine. Well, not this week! Me instead, I’m afraid.

Today, this happened

In 1941 the Harry K Fooks sank following a collision with the fishing trawler, EJ Codd. Fog was blamed. Fortunately, no crew members died as everyone was rescued by another vessel, the Richmond which was nearby. The Fooks sank very quickly leaving just six feet of mast sticking up out of the water.

RJ Kennedy, an ‘official’ from The Fish Products Company, which owned the Fooks, declared that Captain Ira Swift of the Fooks, was not to blame. It was all the fault of the fog. According to Captain Carroll Rigby of the Codd, owned by The Consolidated Fisheries Company, the Fooks came out of nowhere and rammed his vessel. He tried reversing – Codd was a steamer – but it wasn’t enough.

Harry Kendall Fooks was a farmer, a canner and a long standing mayor of Laurel, Delaware. He died of a heart attack in 1936. He was only 58. I can only assume that the schooner was named after him.

The other thing that happened today was that Diana Rigg died at the age of 82. Oh, how I remember Emma Peel and how, somewhat later, amazing she was in Game of Thrones. She was the consummate actor.

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On a return to Starbucks

I didn’t see the Gundog Guy this morning. We generally meet just before the lane leading down to Park Row, and have a chat about…well, anything from archaeology to world travel. But not this morning. I guess he went earlier or had a sleep in. I know he can’t miss a day because, as he says, the dog won’t let him.

More importantly, this week saw my return to Starbucks. Obviously I’ll only be going on my shopping days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) versus every day like I used to. Still, it felt like The Return of the Normal. Except it wasn’t because of the perspex screens and the lack of furniture.

Actually, the lack of furniture is a good thing. Because the only chairs and tables are around the walls, the central space is empty. This means that when the parents return from dropping their kids off, they now sit outside. Inside Starbucks is now quiet enough to concentrate on anything other than them.

I almost didn’t return. Plastered on the perspex screens are stickers ‘politely’ suggesting that customers wear face masks when ordering and collecting. This is as well as having a perspex screen between the customer and the server.

I wasn’t challenged for not wearing mine on Monday or today. I might be on borrowed time but if I am challenged, I’ll simply stop going to Starbucks. But for now, at least, all is well.

Surprisingly, Amelia remembered my order. She always struggled with it before the plague struck but, on Monday, she had it down pat. Which was handy because I’ve probably forgotten it. Sue, today, had no problem remembering it, but then she has been making my coffee for many, many years.

There was quite a steady flow of customers as I sat there reading Sharpe 10. There was a lovely little puppy and lots of masks and one poor toddler who had hand sanitiser smeared all over her hands by an unloving parent. It was good to see the toddler then happily crawling around on the floor and licking her fingers.

In sad news, I shan’t be going north for the Great Northern Weasel Gathering because the government has forbidden it. Our so-called prime minister has declared that meetings of more than six people are not allowed except at race meetings, football, schools, pubs and restaurants. We were going to be seven Weasels. Also, we’d be from five different households when we are only allowed to be from two.

So that’s killed that particular bit of joy. John has suggested we just go to Europe for our regular Christmas jaunt (which I’ve yet to indulge in) to St Omar. Who knows what the Dictatorship will allow by then. I’m not holding my breath for any kind of freedom.

But enough misery! Tonight I made something new. It was yoghurt and spice roasted salmon on Maast-o-Esfenaj from Simply by Sabrina Ghayour. And it was delicious. And super simple.

I steamed some pak choi and fried some of Neighbour Dave’s courgette (obtained by Mirinda who had a tour of his garden today) to go with it but the main attraction was the salmon. So bloody good!

I’m loving Simply.

Today, this happened

Peter Perez Burdett died today in 1793. He drew maps and did a spot of aquatinting, among a few other things. He was also a peripheral member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham.

Pete was born in Essex and died in Karlsruhle in Germany where he hid from people seeking payment of his unpaid bills.

Money was an oft recurring issue for Pete. He only managed to start making maps when a mate loaned him some start up cash. This mate was Joseph Wright of Derby, the artist. And, in return, Burdett posed for him as well as explain how to draw perspective.

Peter’s first successful map – successful in that it was recognised by the Society of Arts – was a map of Derby in the one inch to one mile scale. His was only the second to be thus recognised. The same year, 1767, he also produced the rather amusingly titled aquatint, Two Boys Blowing a Bladder by Candle-light.

Eventually, though incredibly talented and much sought after – he intrigued the likes of Benjamin Franklin – his debts soon forced him to leave Liverpool and head for Germany. Oddly, he left his wife, Hannah to the bailiffs. He did take a painting of her with him though, so I guess that’s something. Here’s the rather rakish looking Peter on the left while Hannah on the right appears to have been added afterwards.

By Joseph Wright of Derby – https://sbirky.ngprague.cz/en/dielo/CZE:NG.DO_4289, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12427896

In Germany, he was working for Charles Frederick the rather grand Duke of Baden. He then married again, a German woman. I have no idea what happened to his English wife. He and his new German wife had a daughter called Anna, and she married a Count. So that’s nice.

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The bald headed ball boy

For some reason or other, our central heating is playing silly buggers. Perhaps it’s the fault of the plague because, in olden times (last year) they would just come on when the temperature dipped below the preset on the thermometer. Now they just refuse to come on unless I do unspeakable things to the control panel.

These acts of deliberate vandalism are completely random. I only stop when the heat appears. Then, today, they just refused to come on at all. I booked a call out with Tom, the plumber, to come and either fix or kill the whole stupid system.

Being Australian, we don’t understand central heating. When we lived in Katoomba where the temperature rarely rose above 5° in the winter, we had a wood burning stove and would only use the room it was in. The rest of the house was quite handy for storing frozen food. I would always be chopping the wood which made me feel very much like a lumberjack.

But here, in the civilised Northern Hemisphere, we have these strange things attached to the wall which deliver heat through hot water. Mind you, today we had a bit of a heat wave so there was no need for artificial heating anyway.

The improved weather meant it was also a good night to go and watch football. Which was handy because Nicktor was coming over, and we were scheduled to go to watch Ash United play Bagshot. And, for a change, we had young James for company.

But, before we headed for Ash, we had to eat. Actually, Nicktor had to eat. He claims he always HAS TO EAT. No matter how often I assure him that he won’t die if he misses a meal, he still insists on eating. Given Dr Dawn is very similar I can only assume that Young James might follow in their digestive footsteps.

If such a thing is possible.

This week we decided against the foodless Albion and went, instead, to the Six Bells.

I haven’t been to the Six Bells in quite a while. In fact, I haven’t been since the refurb and new owners. Then there was the Plague Lockdown to further limit pub visits. So, it was with an air of wonder that we entered the pub.

And I have to say that both the redecoration and the staff were pleasant surprises. Obviously the beer was good but then the Six Bells always had a decent pint. Though, Young James disappointedly, preferred Stella to anything decent on offer. I understand people drinking lager but not an inferior one.

That aside, we had a jolly good meal with beer (I had ham, egg and chips – Nicktor had my chips and I had Young James’ coleslaw) and chatter.

But all of that paled into insignificance when stood alongside the glory that was the game.

There was some humour, mostly involving the Bagshot goal-keeper who, quite frankly, as a football player, made an excellent spectator. There was no nastiness with the players enjoying the cut and thrust of Combined Counties League Division 1 football. But, most exciting was there were a lot of goals.

That may not be quite as satisfying for the Bagshot players and fans given the final scoreline of 7-0 however, we thoroughly enjoyed our evening at the Shawfield Stadium which, rather confusingly, might also be the Third Generation Services Stadium. (Third Generation Services make car parks.) Ash probably thought it more than made up for the 6-0 drubbing they had at the feet of Walton and Hersham on Saturday.

As I pointed out to Nicktor, so far I’ve seen two different home teams win in two weeks. Given we are always supporting the home team, this is a pretty good start to a season of non-aligned football. Long may it continue.

And there was no massive running track around the pitch. We were nice and close to the action. As was the bald headed ball boy who was clearly very familiar with the hedge to the left of the photo above. At one point, a ball managed to land on the top and not roll off. It remained there for a while despite the efforts of the rather portly bald headed ball boy.

Eventually an associate arrived with a pole and managed to prod the ball from beneath and, while the prodding merely moved the ball a few feet forward, eventually it was retrieved by a relieved bald headed ball boy.

All in all, a very satisfying night. Except for Bagshot.

Today, this happened

Antonín Leopold Dvořák was born today back in 1841.

His New World Symphony is one of the first pieces of classical music I remember ever hearing. Well, alongside our music teacher, Miss Goring, and her love of Beethoven. I distinctly remember her thumping out Ludwig’s 5th on an old piano during a music class. But, as far as professional performances go, The New World Symphony it was.

Dvořák showed his musical talents quite early. He was playing violin at the age of six. His dad ran a pub, was a butcher and played the zither. I guess young Antonín would have been given a lot of encouragement from a young age.

His mum, Anna, was the daughter of a bailiff and was to give birth to 14 children! Not that they all survived beyond infancy. Fortunately, though, Antonín did.

He played in Karel Komzák’s orchestra from 1858 and would play at restaurants and balls.

He started teaching and fell in love with a student, Josefína Čermáková. While frowned on these days, it was okay back then. Besides, she didn’t return his love and ended up marrying some other bloke. Dvořák settled for her sister, Anna Čermáková, which I think is just a tad weirder.

He lived in New York for a time, working as the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America. It was during this time that he wrote the New World Symphony. He was living in a house in East 17th Street which, when due for demolition in 1991, Václav Havel tried to save. He was not successful and the house is no more.

Mind you, there are conflicting reports about where he composed the symphony. It’s also believed that he wrote it in a building in Spillville, Iowa which now houses The Bily Clocks Museum. (If you want to see a version of the world’s smallest church, it’s in the museum. There’s also quite a few clocks. And it is Bily, and not Billy.)

The New World Symphony is said to be the world’s most popular symphony. Maybe that’s why Neil Armstrong took a tape recording of it with him to the moon in 1969. And maybe that’s why it’s my earliest memory of classical music.

And it’s called The New World Symphony BECAUSE he composed it in the US given he came from the Old World and was working in the New one. And there was me thinking it had something to do with science fiction.

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