A little bit of nostalgia; early signs of the future schoolmaster; a fast car to Eastbourne; tennis with pigs; the Otterbourne Monkey Puzzle; a new bird for Britain; Last night of the Proms and 200 Swallows in a bedroom.
Gran is in pensive mood. She writes:
I heard religion described today by a clergyman as “what we do with our loneliness”, and I thought back over the last five years and wondered if he would think I had used mine to advantage. Quite apart from my writing, which may or may not benefit somebody someday, I think it has deepened my capacity for compassion and sympathetic understanding and I have tried to give myself wholeheartedly to those who need me, and I know that my friendship has helped several people at least. But it has also humbled me, for I have felt so desperately bewildered and ignorant of so much that I want to understand and believe implicitly…
She continues, on August 26th 1952:
I went over the road to find some flowers for a yellow jug, decorated with a fiery dragon in orange and black, and was pleased with Solidago virgaurea (Goldenrod) and Calluna vulgaris (Ling), with some tinted leaves of bracken. Grasshoppers were “singing” and crickets chirping in the warm sunshine.
This jug still survives, and it forms for me a strong childhood memory-link with Gran and The Ridge. It was set indoors, by the front door, always with a display of dried flowers in it, which generally included Chinese Lantern flowers (Physalis). Together with the distinctive smell of the paraffin heater there on the hall’s dark linoleum floor, these were the first things to hit my senses every time we visited.
Flowers are boxed and delivered, on the 28th, to several liners, familiar to us by now, but also others, including the Capetown Castle, the Orangefontein and the Ile de France. The work took all day, hundreds of boxes being packed, including one hundred for the Queen Elizabeth alone. She adds some new details of these deliveries, writing:
I went down to the “Queen Elizabeth”, barely half and hour before she sailed, with the last ten orders and left them in the Restaurant where all flowers have now to be deposited instead of being delivered to the cabins. The place was crammed with boxes and floral arrangements and several harassed ship’s officers were already trying to cope with them. No doubt they preferred the old arrangement…
Late that night, Gran’s last comment is that:
Jane has just come home, having cycled to Bournemouth today. She is very sunburnt, having been bathing there and I have just stopped writing to smear her back and shoulders with cooling cream.
Next day it’s Gran’s turn for a long bike-ride; she makes her way to the New Forest, spending much time there negotiating the quaking ground and pools at Hatchet Pond, failing though, to find Bog Orchid. But she enjoys Grayling and Small Heath butterflies, finds Pale Butterwort, and many other plants of interest elsewhere in the Forest, including some of her beloved Marsh Gentians along Beaulieu Road. Of the trip she writes, “…the peace and glory of the New Forest has entered into my very soul, giving me a sense of well-being and deep contentment…”
There is tennis in Southampton on the penultimate day of August, but before leaving for that, Gran sees that the garden is particularly busy with titmice, observing:
Tits were active in the garden and were quarrelsome over the food basket. Four species were present, Great, Blue, Cole [sic] and Marsh, the Blues predominating and by far the most aggressive. The Marsh Tits seem to be modest and retiring little birds.
And of the tennis, doubles matches, she says:
…it was extremely warm and close playing. The atmosphere was not enhanced by the presence of pigs on the other side of the fence and I felt slightly stupefied when down the end nearest to them. But it was a good match against very pleasant opponents.
She goes on to describe the long matches, giving scores, and continuing:
…a test of endurance as well as play, and, frankly, I thought we had as good as lost when we dropped that second set. But a spurt of renewed energy gave me great encouragement and we ran out comfortably in the third. All the same I am not as young as I was, and walking with difficulty down Hiltingbury Road after sitting on the ‘bus, I once more wondered why on earth I do it! But it is a good game and has given me nearly forty years of pleasure, so it seems a pity to give up whilst I still have the use of my legs and can wield a comparatively efficient racquet!
She is an amazing woman, nearly 50 years old, and twenty-four more will pass before she has both of her hips replaced!
On September 7th, Gran and Jane (Barry, also at home, on leave but having a lie-in) make their way to Compton Church. They see that:
The Monkey Puzzle [Araucaria] tree in the garden at the foot of Otterbourne Hill is bearing cones this year; the first time I have ever seen them. They are the females, more or less spherical in shape and covered in pointed scales, which overlap like the tiles on a roof…the seeds, about twice the size of an almond, are edible.
“I hope it will be fine tomorrow”, Gran writes on the 11th, “I am going to Eastbourne with Jane, who has an interview at Chelsea College, into which she hopes to gain admission next year”. On the day, the journey is long in time and distance; they travel by car, presumably driven by Grampa:
…covering ground that was entirely new to me, the only snag being that we travelled too quickly for close observation and, having business in hand and being the only naturalist present, I could not keep stopping the car every time I wanted a closer look at anything. No doubt the day was something of an ordeal for Jane, since her interview and tests…were severe and lasted nearly three hours, but she was able to enjoy the beauties of the Sussex countryside on our return journey.
Copious notes are made throughout the trip, Gran describing the views, and the towns and villages passed through; wishing she could spend more time investigating Arundel Castle; stopping for coffee and biscuits at “an attractive little café called The Warming Pan”; writing of Tamarisk growing near Worthing, “It is common on the marshy sea coasts of the Mediterranean (I saw it in perfection in Italy)”, and celebrating the virtues of Roedean Girls’ School, near Rottingdean, “…surely no school ever had finer or more healthy surroundings, facing the sea and surrounded by the rolling chalk downs and its own grounds and playing fields”. And she continues:
Further along the road is St Dunstan’s, that fine establishment where so much is done to lighten the burden of those who have the misfortune to lose their sight. There is even a notice at the entrance to the town appealing for care in driving on account of the presence of blind pedestrians!
They arrive back home at around 10 o’clock that night, Gran writing, “I could only tumble thankfully into bed, worn out with looking about almost continually for over twelve hours”.
Today we are all familiar with the Collared Dove and its call but it was a new bird for Britain in the 1950s. On the evening September 16th, Gran listens to the wireless and notes the following:
In an interesting broadcast programme…James Fisher spoke of the appearance in England, for the first time, of the Collared Dove, which was seen by a postman in Lincolnshire who reported it and also by James Fisher himself. Incidentally Fisher’s own book of research into the habits of the Fulmar is just published and a copy arrived on approval for Barry this morning from his friend Eric Classey, and needless to say, Jock and I decided that he must have it, since it is of great help in his own observations on British Birds.
Returning from more flower-boxing in Southampton a few days later, Gran finds “a welcome letter from Barry awaiting me”. She reads that:
…though he hates the R.A.F., the lecture which he gave on Bird Migration was well-received and the Squadron Leader said that it was well delivered and that Barry had a musical voice and some unique little mannerisms!
At an evening meeting of the Southampton Natural History Society on the 19th, Gran learns two things that particularly interest her: Mr Williams, she says, saw an Osprey near Yew Tree Camp on the Beaulieu River (this was before the species famously returned as a breeding bird to the UK), and:
Paul Bowman, a keen botanist, found a species of Helleborine (Epipactis) at Nursling, and being uncertain of its identity, sent a specimen to Kew. This apparently caused some excitement and resulted in two representatives, including Mr Summerhayes (who wrote “Wild Orchids in Britain”) coming down here to see the plant. They identified it as Epipactis phyllanthes, and later located it in other parts of Hampshire.
The summer is coming to an end, and Gran listens, with Jane, to the Last Night of the Proms. Gran describes the concert in some detail, and with patriotic emotion – “Pomp and Circumstance”; “Land of Hope and Glory”; “Sea Shanties”; “Rule Brtiannia” and the National Anthem. She is much taken with the personality of Sir Malcolm Sargent and ends; ”I should so very much like to attend one Promenade Concert conducted by him before I die”.
On her way to catch a train at Southampton for Poole (where she plans to play tennis with an old friend, Gladys Richards) a botanical question is solved for Gran, but she would have had no inkling of the future notoriety of the plant in question. She sees it growing by the roadside in Chandler’s Ford – a plant, she says, with which she is familiar at Compton, but has not yet named it, writing:
…until this month’s journal of the British Empire Naturalists’ Association came, I had not been able to discover its name. It is Polygonum cuspidatum [now Fallopia japonica] an alien which has established itself on waste ground and railway embankments and has been cultivated in gardens for over a century. It was introduced from Japan and one of its names is Japanese Knotweed.
Wet weather prevents her playing tennis and on her return to The Ridge, she finds “Jock and Jane furiously knitting baby garments”, and she, also, is producing knitted articles for the forthcoming child, as she writes the following afternoon that though the weather was fine, “I did not go out again, being anxious to proceed with some knitting for ‘our baby’”.
She quotes an amazing report from a London newspaper on October 1st, concerning Swallows:
There was a gale rising and a party of Swallows had reached Woolston, a suburb, and were looking for somewhere to roost. One of them flew into a bedroom through an open window and was followed by at least two-hundred! The occupants of the house tried unsuccessfully to drive them out and then phoned the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who, to my amazement, told them to catch as many as possible and put them in boxes and they would call for them next morning! Imagine the poor little creatures shut up in boxes, all huddled together! However, about twenty remained uncaptured and the owners of the bedroom retired and slept downstairs. I wonder why these things never happen to our house? I would gladly share my bedroom for a night with Swallows, for no doubt, they would pass on again next morning.
Next day’s local paper seems to confirm the story, with a photograph of the Swallows “resting on an electric light flex, and the owner of the house lifting one down”. Apparently the birds settled well in the boxes and they were collected and released by the RSPCA next morning.
News of Jane’s acceptance at Chelsea College gladdens Gran. She has been offered a place for next year, but Gran worries:
I hope she will be very happy and successful there, though, Heaven knows, what shall I do without either her of Barry with me here? Thank God I can see and hear nature, and I have my memories.
A little later in the month, Gran has this to say about fungi:
The beautiful fungus, Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric) is common in the woods just now and if gathered carefully can be arranged very attractively in a bowl, a black one preferably as this shows off the brilliant scarlet caps to perfection. It should be handled with care, however, as it is poisonous though never caused death in healthy people…The effects of Amanita panthera (False Blusher)…are apparently more serious. It is well to be cautious with all fungi though the Poles in this district collect and eat enormous numbers and are still with us!!
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 1)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 2)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 3)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 4)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 5)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 6)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 7)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 8)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 9)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 10)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 11)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 12)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 13)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 14)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 15)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 16)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 17)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 18)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 19)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 20)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 21)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 22)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 23)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 24)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 25)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 26)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 27)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 28)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 29)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 30)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 31)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 32)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 33)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 34)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 35)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 36)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 37)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 38)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 39)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 40)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 41)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 42)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 43)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 44)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 45)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 46)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 47)