Deceivers and slayers; a cousin’s support; ants’ guests; beware those hairy caterpillars; running and hockey; simple gifts at Christmas but the turkey’s too big; vandalism in the countryside; Hut Hill desecrated for the motor car and Churchill is back in power.
On September 22nd 1951, Gran takes part in a quest for fungi in a local wood.
The afternoon passed in a pleasant and interesting manner and in a way new to me. I joined in a Fungus Foray arranged by the combined efforts of the Ramblers’ Club and the Southampton Natural History Society, and, though it is a branch of which I know very little, I managed to find the greatest number of fungi in the party, and the only ones of several varieties [by which, to be accurate, she means “species”]. We went to Squab Wood, in Romsey, meeting in the square there before proceeding to the wood.
I wandered alone most of the time and found it easy to locate fungi, my eyes having had good practice in observation from my deeper interests and I had always noticed them casually before. I found about thirty specimens, nineteen of which I managed to get named for me…now, of course, I want to know more about them but at present possess no book upon the subject.
She lists, describes and comments on most of the species found – they, like many of her familiar moths, have rather evocative English names: the Amethyst Deceiver, the Slayer, the Blusher, the Chanterelle, the Sulphur Tuft, the Stinkhorn, the Vegetable Beefsteak…
The following day, again with a severe headache, she is disappointed, because:
I was in no fit condition to cycle the three miles to Church, though I wanted to since special prayers were to be said for the King’s restoration to health following a serious operation.
The afternoon of September 29th, Gran says, was glorious, and she plays tennis in Southampton, noting that:
The horses taking part in a military tattoo in Southampton were stabled near the tennis courts and we went to look at them. They were beautiful animals, in splendid condition, their flanks gleaming like satin and their lovely eyes bright and lustrous, and their trappings of scarlet and polished harness smart in the extreme. We spoke to one of the mounted policemen, who said his mare’s name was Trixie, and waited to see them ride away, swords in the scabbard on the saddle and lances held aloft, with pennants fluttering.
I nursed a small baby belonging to one of our opponents, a dear thing, and I enjoyed the feel of him in my arms. His young sister was most anxious to see that I was careful of his arm – he had recently been vaccinated – and was pricelessly funny when I asked her if I could have him. She said, “Well, think of the waste – there is a pram, a carrycot, and a big cot at home, and they are a great expense you know!” She was about five years old. I said, “Well, perhaps it would be better if you kept him, as I haven’t any of these things now.” She agreed that it would be so, but she did not in the least mind my nursing him.
Gran learns more about fungi at an evening meeting of the Southampton Natural History Society on October 2nd, writing that Mr Ruffel gave an interesting talk, and that night, she writes:
It is late now, and I am rather tired. It is a long ride to Southampton and back and rather much for me at the end of a full day. But I look forward all day to this quiet hour in which I write up the nature notes which once I sent so happily to Kingston. I wonder sometimes if they will ever be read after I have, please God, joined my beloved. But it does not really matter – I am keeping my promise.
On October 11th, a visit by one of Gran’s cousins allows her the rare luxury of opening her heart:
This afternoon I took my cousin, Marjorie, to Farley Mount and was not disappointed by her reactions to her first visit to this favourite haunt… we turned into the favourite field near the Spindle Spinney and, I am afraid, there we remained until, with a shock, we realised it was getting late. Marjorie is not as used to cycling as I am, and was on a borrowed bicycle, so she was nothing loth to accept my suggestion that we sat awhile. The sun was delightfully warm…
We talked a little – Marjorie is also of this indefinable artistic nature and understands its suffering, from the pains of pent up creative urge to that of stifled emotion, and it was not long before all my desperate longing and consuming love for Adrian had again engulfed me and reduced me to incoherence. But the comfort of her beliefs, and her infinite understanding helped, though whether I am better when I have no one to whom I can speak of it or when I pour out my heart, I don’t know… a little sympathy shown and I am completely undone.
It is not clear whether Marjorie is staying at The Ridge at this time, but a week later, she travels by bus with Gran to Compton and they make their way on foot to the Downs, from where they watch a distant and seemingly timeless agricultural scene:
A tractor was pulling a mechanical lifter in the potato field, yellow-brown now with the dried haulms in place of the dark green foliage, and about a dozen people were following the machine, picking up the potatoes and putting them into sacks. The bright jumpers and cardigans of the women workers provided the only splashes of colour in the field. Many late flowers still bloomed on the downs, Scabious, Ragwort, Knapweed, Toadflax and such…
Marjorie is still present that evening, and she and Gran attend a concert:
… excerpts from “Merrie England”, given by the Eastleigh Methodist Choir. It was an excellent performance and it was difficult to say which items were the most pleasing but I must make special mention of those two most beautiful songs “Oh Peaceful England”, sung by the Contralto, and “The English Rose”, by the Tenor. The warmth of the hall roused a hibernating Queen Wasp… [I] was taken by surprise when, during “Oh Peaceful England”, I felt something crawling on my head, and brushed off the Wasp. I was relieved to see her fly up onto the roof.
During the late Summer and Autumn, Barry has been making a study of the flora of Southampton’s bombed sites, adding a number of species, Gran writes, to “our Hampshire List”, including, on October 20th, Lepidium ruderale (Narrow-leaved Cress).
Cycling home from a Spindle-berry collecting foray at Farley Mount, Gran says:
As I sped down the hill I saw the characteristic yellow “fluff” which betrays the caterpillar of the Pale Tussock moth, and this one was crossing the road. One of the prettiest of British caterpillars, I think, though a torment to those unfortunate enough to be allergic to the hairs which bring up lumps similar to nettle stings on the skin. Barry is one such sufferer, and with the hairs of the Brown-tail caterpillar especially, I have seen his neck and face badly affected and an eye, which he inadvertently rubbed, swollen and inflamed. The irritation is almost unbearable.
The first frost of the season is expected on the night of the 21st. However, Gran, on awakening, finds “my Baby Royal Dahlia still happily blooming”. But:
A surprise awaited me as I reached the Pinewood Gardens this afternoon, for all the beautiful Dahlias were stricken and blackened and I learned that there had been a sharp frost this morning, which seemed strange since it is barely a mile away from this house [The Ridge].
There is little for Gran to record on the 25th, “but”, she notes, “as I went to record my vote in the General Election, I heard a Grey Squirrel scolding in a tree along Kingsway. I did not see it”. And later she adds that she did not go out again, “but was engaged in printing labels for the moths which Barry is preparing for exhibition at the South London Entomological Society on Saturday”.
Gran, without a doubt, would have voted for Winston Churchill in the General Election and would have been delighted with the result – which saw the start of a thirteen-year period with Labour reduced to The Opposition. Indeed, she writes the next day:
…there has been a change of Government, the Conservatives winning yesterday’s election, so let us hope times will be a little better in the near future.
The moon was shining in a clear sky when I went to Southampton this evening to the Writers’ Circle, where Ralph Whitlock, of B.B.C. fame, was giving an address on his own writing experiences. I found Ralph Whitlock a very easy person to listen to, he having a well-modulated, unaffected voice, a pleasant, expressive face, and a pleasing manner, which made his address more of a fireside chat than a lecture and was exceedingly interesting. He gave freely and generously of his knowledge and showed great patience in replying to innumerable questions afterwards. Also, he cheerfully signed his name for all who asked him.
And there, between the pages of her journal, Gran has placed a small sheet of lined notebook paper with the man’s autograph on it.
There is heavy rain later in November:
The flooding in this area was amazing – the swamp – through which the stream runs into the lake, was today itself a lake, and water was running in streams along all the downhill roads… [work] in the greenhouse, too, was impossible, since a long-forgotten spring had come to life again and the place was flooded.
Christmas is about a month ahead; Gran prepares for it in good time, on November 22nd, avoiding the unpleasant cold of outdoors by being:
… busy indoors with Christmas cards. Though by no means perfect, I am quite pleased with this year’s efforts and I feel that, given more time to spend on them, I could make quite a creditable job of picture-making…
Later on, she writes that she is also making calendars for Christmas presents. How much simpler, less pressured and arguably, more meaningful, was the giving and receiving of simple gifts in those days! And also on the theme of Christmas, she writes several times during the month, with despair, of the wanton mutilation visited on local Holly trees. For example:
I had not intended to get Holly today, but I found that, after breaking down a five-barred gate, vandals had devastated a truly wonderful tree, sawing off the greater part of it and throwing aside some great branches and many small, well-berried pieces. It seemed a pity to leave it lying there to spoil so I picked up as much as I could carry and have put it in water in the air-raid shelter. It will keep quite fresh there.
There seems no end to the impudence and destructive greed of the type that will so utterly ruin holly trees at this time of year – all the more infuriating because it is usually town folk with cars, who steal it for the purpose of selling it at fantastic prices to the unfortunates who would give much for the privilege of gathering a few sprays for themselves.
There is more sporting news of her offspring on November 24th, when rain:
… made conditions very unpleasant for both Barry and Jane, the former running in the Reynolds Garrett trophy race at Southampton and the latter playing in her first Junior County Hockey match against Berkshire at Reading. Barry, near to his expectations, ran fourteenth over a difficult course, and Hampshire won the Hockey match by three goals to one. I was pleased and proud to hear that Jane was elected Captain of the Hampshire side.
And at a Winchester County High School Parents-Staff meeting a few days later, Gran:
…enjoyed but was somewhat embarrassed by the reflected glory of Jane’s election… which brought upon myself many glowing tributes to Jane from members of the staff.
Gran, saying there was little of natural history note that day, writes again of the fascination of her garden bonfire on the 28th – something with which she “spent a pleasant hour this morning, before going to open Barnardo Helpers’ boxes”.
Most days’ entries are, however, filled with a considerable amount of rather unremarkable natural history note, although this is interesting, on the last day of November:
Barry went to Wareham, in Dorset, today, with a party of students from the University, to visit a plant-breeding station. In Wareham Woods they were amazed to find a [Great] Spotted Woodpecker’s feeding place, where, in a cleft between a branch and the trunk of a pine tree, it had been in the habit of wedging fir-cones in order to extract the seeds. With the continual hammering with its beak it had made quite a deep groove, and underneath was found a pile of cones amounting to the astonishing figure of five hundred and eighty-two! Nearby was another pile of about two hundred. The large heap was later photographed on Barry’s coat.
December 9th sees Gran at Compton church in the morning, “today”, she writes, “being a special day of thanksgiving for the King’s recovery from his recent serious operation”.
On December 16th Gran is again busy with preparations for Christmas, and also with:
… helping Jane to complete a dress for a dance tomorrow. What it is to be young and full of carefree happiness! But what pleasure it gives me to see her so.
At the same time though, the state of Hut Hill, caused by road improvements, does not give her pleasure. She writes, not for the first time:
The devastation on Hut Hill is heart-breaking and the whole, once beautiful, scene is utterly ruined. And to what end? No matter how straight the road is made, or how wide, accidents will continue… whilst the dream of speed is uppermost in men’s minds, and in the meantime the beauty of this lovely country is sacrificed… and we who love the peace and quietude have to go further and further afield to find it… a quest which becomes increasingly difficult as age creeps up on us…
A carol service at Compton, with children singing and reading in “pure, clearly-spoken English”, and a moving blessing given by the rector, Mr Burdett, brings Gran close to tears on December 23rd. And her emotions are tugged at again, after the service:
As I stood waiting for the bus, the charming small daughter of a friend came up to me and said, “mummy says she would like you to come and have tea with us. Will you come please?” As I took Anne’s little warm hand I felt again the sting of tears in my eyes.
This evening Jane and some school-friends came to our door carol-singing and gave me another treat, rendering “Come Christian Men Rejoice” and “Silent Night” with great feeling, the latter being particularly pleasing with a solo by the daughter of a late friend and descant accompaniment.
On Christmas Eve:
I was given, and gladly accepted, a basket of Newton Wonder apples as a Christmas gift before I left work and when I reached home I was amazed to find that I had won first prize in the Grocer’s Christmas draw – a doll! Since Jane has long outgrown dolls, I suggested giving it to our next-door-neighbour’s little girl, Vivienne, and took it in forthwith. The look of wonder and pleasure on the child’s sweet face was a gift I shall long remember and the pretty way in which she wished me a happy Christmas was quite charming.
In my early years, Dad’s great lepidopterist friend and publisher of entomological books, Eric Classey, was a regular and highly entertaining visitor to our home. The following is typical of him. Gran says:
Barry today received a ridiculously funny Christmas card from Eric Classey, depicting a caterpillar hanging up his numerous stockings along the mantle-shelf, above which hung a banner saying “Wishing you a Happy Chrysalis”. How we laughed!
Christmas Day is stressful, as usual, for Gran and not helped by the wrong bird being delivered:
I was somewhat involved in the kitchen, the butcher having sent us a turkey, which was almost too large for the oven, instead of the chickens as ordered, and I spent anxious moments getting it in and then saving it from burning. But eventually it was cooked to a turn…
Gran is dogged during the last days of 1951 by her migraine and pain in her shoulders and arms, fainting on one occasion and taking to her bed. Jane also becomes ill, retiring to her bed, and Gran writes that:
A strange bug seems to have attacked the household. Somewhat shakily I roamed about when necessary but for the most part stayed by the fire wrapped, like some frail old woman, in a rug.
She is recovered by the 31st, when she, as is now usual at the year’s end, writes a long letter to her departed Adrian, recalling natural history highlights of her year and also giving a round-up of its weather, saying that the sun shone on two hundred and eighty-two days (thirty-three days less than in 1950); rain fell on two hundred and three days (it was one hundred and ninety-five in 1950); fifty-eight days of frost were recorded (sixty-five in 1950) and ten days of snow (eleven in 1950).
That this year will be an eventful one for me and mine I know already, for Barry and Jock (God bless them) hope to be married in April. Barry takes his Finals in June, and, I suppose joins the Air Force any time after July. I find it difficult to realise that he is a man – this lad who has been my constant joy, a dear pal and a charming companion, and I am going to miss him more than I dare to contemplate. But I love Jock as one of my own… And Jane? Well, at present – – – but how long will it be before her young heart awakens to the fact that one man reigns supreme with her?
Gran spends much of this first day of 1952 “not at work in the Pinewood Gardens, but collecting oak leaves in the adjoining wood for use with potting mould”. That evening she writes nearly 1000 words summing up all she learned during “an interesting and instructive lecture on Ants, by Mr L.R. Molyneaux”. She continues:
I already knew something of this subject (I once wrote an essay in a Cambridge University exam and gained a Credit) I was amazed at the amount of research that had gone into the life histories of these little creatures – and I wondered afterwards how I ever dared to write on the subject as a child, and even more, how it was ever passed by the examiner.
She ends by recounting the story of “guests” in ants’ nests, which include the larvae of the Large Blue butterfly, which secretes a sugary solution much in demand by the ants:
An interesting experiment was carried out in 1915 by Messrs Frohawk, Chapman and Purefoy, who transported some Large Blue larvae from Cornwall, which is one of the few counties where it occurs, to some nests under observation in a garden at Ashford, in Kent. Now, although the Kentish ants can never have had any experience of Large Blue caterpillars, immediately they were set down near them they took them into their nests, there to feed them upon their own grubs in exchange for the coveted sweet secretion.
- 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)