Mrs Doncaster’s lovely garden; The “Voice of Michael Vane”; abundant Painted Ladies; Jock is twenty-one; a sleepy Jackdaw; exams and their results; gambolling Stoats; plenty of orchids; a drinking woodpecker; a moth in the ear, and Wimbledon again.
On May 20th 1952, Gran:
…took a friend from the Natural History Society for a walk round about this district. We went through the woodland past the lake, which is surrounded by Rhododendron bushes which today were in full bloom, reflected in the water of the still lake, the rosy-mauve in various shades making a picture of unsurpassed beauty. Unfortunately, the lake itself is overgrown with pondweed over a large extent and this detracts from its beauty because it spoils the clarity of the water.
I remember being disappointed when those lakeside rhododendrons (which Dad and his friends used to climb through from one end to the other without touching the ground) were grubbed out, apparently because there was a fear that unsavoury men may be tempted to lurk within.
We then went round Mrs Doncaster’s lovely garden, followed closely by the Robin and Chaffinches which she is in the habit of feeding. She is away at present, but I knew I could safely take my friend round this dream garden. One always finds such unexpected treasures here, as, on turning into a shady corner, the indescribable Himalayan Blue Poppies Mecanopsis baileyi or the Iris bed in which all the most unusual colours have been chosen. I have been round this garden at all seasons and it is impossible to say when it is most beautiful. We came home along Oakwood Road, stopping to see Pyrola media which is now in bloom and is spreading again delightfully.
I was intrigued to hear from my friend that the country name in Suffolk of Viola tricolor (Heartsease), of which Mrs Doncaster has a large bed, is “Garden-gate”, a pretty, descriptive name since this small favourite is so often found round field and garden gateways.
On June 2nd, Gran works, “in spite of it being Whit Monday, since I am going to Kingston tomorrow and I did not want to leave my employer a full week without my services”. Later, she makes her way to the downs to collect wildflowers to take to Adrian’s “Garden of Sleep” in Kingston, finding Fragrant and Bee Orchids to include in the posy. That evening:
I listened to an unusual but beautiful little play on the wireless, called “The Voice of Michael Vane”, and although I knew it was only a play, it found an echo in my heart and I am not at all sure that such things do not really happen, though in our blindness most of us do not comprehend them. Anyway, something very similar has occurred in my own experience though I do not hear the voice distinctly.
This play was first broadcast on the BBC Home Service in 1942 and is described as “Almost a ghost story, written and told by James Dyrenforth”. I wonder whose indistinct voice it was, presumably from beyond the grave, that Gran heard. She continues her entry for that day:
I went into the opposite wood to collect moss and I put up a bird with which I was unfamiliar. I came home for Barry and luckily it had returned and again took flight. It was a Woodcock…
As usual, at Kingston the following day, Gran’s evening is taken up listening to music in the company of Adrian’s mother. She writes:
I enjoyed some music on a new auto-change Gramophone which is as near perfection as one could get, I imagine, and among the songs was the lovely ballad “One love alone”, as sung the previous night in the radio play, “The Voice of Michael Vane”. I did no writing, since we retire late in Kingston…
She is in low spirits on the 6th, having to leave Kingston that morning:
Though I knew I was returning to the loveliness of my own village and the certain warm welcome from Barry and Jane. But I leave my heart in that small sacred garden in Kingston and sadness always prevails when I leave.
June 7th dawns, and Gran notes:
A beautiful morning for Jock’s twenty-first birthday, and the Harding twins’ twelfth. I saw a Painted Lady butterfly flying down the road when I went to the corner shop and later there was one on the border at the bottom of our garden. I had little opportunity of making nature observations today but it was gratifying to see Jock’s happy face and to hear her murmured thanks with a hug, for “the happiest birthday I have ever had”.
She reports Painted Ladies many times over the Summer, writing on June 16th:
An expert, speaking on the wireless this evening, said that not for one hundred years has there been such an early migration of Painted Ladies and those which arrived during March and April have apparently survived the ensuing cold and bred here, those on the wing now being the progeny therefrom.
Earlier, on the 10th, Gran relates a charming moment, which seems to have given her great pleasure, saying:
A young friend brought her tame Jackdaw, still a youngster, to see me this evening and he made his presence known by squawking loudly. After I had given him a few pieces of bread dipped in milk and stroked his head gently, he went to sleep in my hands, beak pressed against my cardigan, and remained quiescent for some time.
June 12th is a “big day” in the household:
Barry commenced his finals for his B.Sc. (Botany) today, and, as Jock had the day off, she and I decided to go out for the day, searching for Orchids, since we knew that if we remained at home we should be jittery until he returned early this evening.
Leaving The Ridge at ten o’clock they cycle along Hocombe Road and Kiln Lane, to Brambridge, thence along the Twyford and Morestead Roads. They note wayside flowers as they go, and record common birds including Magpies, Grey Wagtail and Spotted Flycatchers – the last so uncommon today. “Larks and Whitethroats were singing”, Gran writes, “as was the inevitable Corn Bunting.” Would that a sighting of Corn Bunting, even in its ideal habitat, could still be referred to as “inevitable”! The couple continue on the Petersfield Road to the downs, and Gran writes:
As we reached the gate that leads onto the downs we were both suddenly aware of movement almost beneath the gate and stopped dead in our tracks. We were thrilled and amazed to see a whole family of Stoats playing together, rolling and tumbling about in an animated heap. Aware suddenly of our presence they scattered, two scampering one way and the rest into the long grass close to the remains of a straw-stack. There must have been eight or nine of them, two adults and six or seven youngsters. We went through the gate some distance and sat down, hoping they would return but… an Agricultural Executive Committee van came up to the gate and all hope of seeing the Stoats again vanished.
They search for flowers on the downs, finding amongst many plant species, the orchids – Twayblade, Spotted, Fragrant, Bee, Frog and Man – before continuing towards the Meon Valley, but finding this to be too far, they turn towards Bishop’s Waltham adding White Helleborine, Pyramidal and Bird’s-nest Orchid to the day’s orchid list.
It’s been an arduous but, in Gran’s words, “a most perfect day”, and she ends her long description of it, for Adrian, thus:
It is very late and I have a headache coming, but it has been an exciting day. I wonder, beloved, did you see all those Orchids with me – the flowers we most wanted to find together? Will there be Orchids in Heaven and if so, will we be allowed to look for them together? I hope so, for without you and without flowers it would be only half a heaven for me.
Gran records Green Woodpecker in and close to the garden frequently and she watches one carefully on June 19th:
I came to the sitting-room window at about mid-day and was just in time to see a Green Woodpecker come to the birdbath for a drink. He sipped daintily, lifting his head high to swallow, and looking about with the utmost wariness between each beak-full. I counted carefully and he took thirty-one sips of water before flying off down the garden.
There is much hard work in the Pinewood Gardens throughout the month, and this, together with regular tennis matches and cycle-rides into the countryside, seem to leave Gran exhausted, though she writes that she is determined to keep busy each day as a way of dealing with her underlying unhappiness. On June 20th:
I was engaged in the almost impossible task of clearing the border, which is chiefly overgrown with that insidious weed Aegopodium podagraria (Goutweed) which, though possessing quite a beautiful flower (it is an Umbellifer) has, nevertheless, a most unpleasant scent and a habit of creeping underground everywhere.
Young Diana Fowler stays for the weekend around this time and her presence causes a bit of “juggling” for Gran, who writes on the 22nd:
I had been up off and on all night with Diana, who was taken ill just after midnight and only settled finally at ten minutes past seven this morning. I slept also then until a quarter to nine. Unfortunately there was a tennis match this afternoon in which both Jane and I were supposed to play and Diana had been coming to watch. I felt that I could not possibly leave the child with only Barry at home but the team would be considerably weakened without me.
Eventually it was Jane who hit upon a solution. I went to Eastleigh to play my Mixed Doubles whilst Jane held the fort at home. Another member with a car brought me home and took Jane to play both her events, returning with her afterwards and taking me to play my Ladies’ Doubles…I eventually came off court just before nine o’clock and was so tired that I could scarcely drag one foot in front of the other.
“Equisetum limosum (Smooth Horsetail)” (now known as E. fluviatile), Gran notes on the 24th:
…has practically covered the large lake in Cranbury Park and today Barry received from Adrian’s brother, Eric, the prints of photographs he had taken of it. Very attractive pictures, and the plant is a new one for our Hampshire list.
Later that day, Gran, working as ever in the Pinewood Gardens, still fighting Goutweed (which I know better as Ground Elder), has, she says, “a delightful surprise”:
Barry came to see if I had already gone and told me that he had passed his exam. We did not expect to hear until August or September but after today’s final paper and interview, Professor Williams told the students, eight of them, that they had all passed, but that the standard of their Degrees would not be announced until passed by the two Senates of Southampton and London. Later one of the London Examiners confirmed the good news.
I feel utterly spent, but only with pleasure and relief since today has seen the fulfilment of all my hopes for Barry, and I had not expected to know yet. Now the future is his, and, please God, he will be able to use his abilities to the full. I pray that his two years in the Air Force may be safely accomplished and carried out under peaceful conditions.
That evening Gran tells us, “Barry has gone again to Titchfield Haven with Clifford Redgrave”. This has become is a regular mothing haunt of Dad’s at this time; he goes there frequently with his older friend, who owns a car. And, in connection with Clifford, Dad reminds me of an anecdote he recounted to me long ago concerning moths getting into entomologists’ ears! Reading an amusing piece on this subject by Norman Hall on page 35 of “The Reading Naturalist “ No. 50 (page 35), Dad says, “I remember vividly the occasions when Ochropleura plecta got into Clifford’s ear, twice when I was with him. I suggested Flame Shoulder should be given a new colloquial name: Redgrave’s Ear Moth!
June 25th sees Gran making her second visit to Wimbledon, to watch the All England Championships. She catches the 6.40 bus, with Jock, arriving soon after half past nine, and she describes their day in detail, including the following, which unfortunately, but typically, does not give much news of the tennis itself:
We hired the customary campstools and took our places next to a very nice young Greek student from London University and a girl who taught mixed classes at night school. The time of waiting passed quickly, there being so much to keep us entertained. An ex-serviceman with a concertina came first, though his music was not very melodious, then a man who, to the accompaniment of a humorous running commentary, rapidly tore newspapers into clever designs, putting the little scraps into his pocket. The crowd applauded and, truth to tell, he really was extremely clever.
He had not long departed when a bearded professional actor…gave us excerpts from Shakespeare, Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice”, Uriah Heap from Dickens’ “David Copperfield”, a Hollywood version of a part of “Julius Caesar”, and various poems. These were all very well done, and I think all the performers must have done handsomely from the onlookers, but it certainly helps to make a day at Wimbledon an expensive affair.
Once through the turnstiles, Jock and I ran for Court No.1, where the matches we most wanted to see were to take place. We found ourselves amongst girls in familiar blazers, and discovered that they were the Winchester County High School Juniors. They were amused to find that I was Jane Goater’s mother!
With the mounting interest and excitement of the games being played, dignity and elegance were forgotten and innumerable cocked hats made from newspapers and programmes, appeared on heads upon which the merciless sun was beating down. Unfortunately I missed part of one match by fainting completely and having to sit on the feet of the man behind me, with the perspiration pouring down my face, until I recovered. Even if I had wanted first aid it would have been impossible to get me out of the crowd, but, fortunately, only those immediately beside me knew what had happened.
People leaving Wimbledon early, kindly pass Gran and Jock their tickets, enabling them to find seats and watch a Gentleman’s Double together, in comfort:
One of the four players was Ampon, the Phillipino, a very small, dark man who quickly became the idol of the crowd by his almost uncanny, wonderful subtlety on court and his obvious enjoyment of every minute of the game. The terrific pace and hard-hitting of his opponents daunted the little man not in the least and his anticipation was amazing. His partner, Clarke of America, was very tall and fair but they combined splendidly and when they ran out winners in three straight sets, the crowd clapped with unfeigned delight. Ampon, his name is Felicissimo, beamed his pleasure and gratification and the crowd beamed at him.
- 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)