Brandy for a Bullfinch; much to be thankful for; looking forward to 1953; Sandy Cunningham; “shortenin’ bread”; mis-identification of a woodecker; a boy is born, and tears and joy fight for supremacy.
On December 10th 1952, Gran is brought a male Bullfinch that has been “knocked down”, she thinks, on the road. She has little hope of its recovery as it seems to be in a bad way but she gives it a drop of brandy, holds it in her warm hand, and then places it in a basket by the kitchen window, and it begins to recover. After more than an hour it flies off, and Gran says, “He was a beautiful bird and I was so pleased that he recovered”.
The use of brandy in such a situation is new to me, and I expect is not to be recommended! I remember another member of the family many years later giving apple pieces soaked in brandy to a budgerigar, and it became so relaxed that it fell off its perch!
I had little time for outside observations today since Barry was coming on leave early this evening and bringing with him his new friend, John Sandy Cunningham, known to all as Sandy, and his fiancée Jill, whose second name I never discovered and which Sandy told me was relatively unimportant as she would be changing it on January 7th, when they are getting married.
Sandy and Jill spend the night at The Ridge, Gran noting that they were:
…already quite at home and the easiest young people with whom to get on that I have ever known, in spite of the fact that Sandy is extremely clever and an Oxford B.A. Also, he is one of the handsomest young men I know and his manners are punctilious. His voice is well modulated and he is most gentle and courteous towards Jill.
The two couples take a bird-watching walk in Cranbury Park the following morning and on their return, Gran discovers that this kind of thing is new for Sandy, who reports on the trip. She enjoys his teasing wit, writing:
It is as well that I am well conversed with the names of our native birds, since Sandy, who says he is horribly narrow since his knowledge of science is rudimentary – his subject being English – came home and told me he had seen the most fantastic birds with names the like of which had never been heard before, and these he reeled off with scarcely a thought and with a look of sublime innocence on his face.
Washing-up, usually a tedious and boring occupation, was almost enjoyable today, for Jill and Sandy insisted on “wiping up” and sang the old negro song “Shortenin’ Bread”, throughout the whole procedure. This afternoon, Sandy played all manner of things on the piano.
We have hints here already of the charismatic character of Sandy Cunningham. He died in 2015 and was clearly a remarkable chap – Professor of English, scholar of eighteenth century literature, a poet and a kind and inspiring man with no “side” to him, as it says in his obituary.
A few days earlier, Gran had bought a shallow bowl in Eastleigh, “in which to make a miniature rock garden for Mary for Christmas”. This she completes, with plants that can be planted out in Mary’s garden in the Spring, and she takes it to her on a snowy December 15th. There is gratitude on both sides:
Her unfeigned delight gave me the utmost pleasure – she is such a nice person for whom to do things and I owe her so much for the encouragement and appreciation which she has always given me.
That night is cold, and two hot water bottles accompany Gran to bed. The following morning, she horrifies her usually highly disciplined self, and is ashamed, as she sees it, to have let Adrian down, by forgetting “to take the temperatures – the first time I have done so since commencing my records”. Tremendous gales blow at this time. Gran spends much time indoors, making and painting cards and calendars for Christmas presents, including a very special one for “Mum Turvey”, as she calls Adrian’s mother. Her pleasure in this activity is enhanced by the knowledge that she is using Adrian’s inks, and she writes that she likes “to think that your hand is guiding mine, beloved…” Concerning the high winds, she learns on the 18th, while packing flowers at the Fowler’s shop that:
The gale yesterday was one of the worst ever experienced at Southampton and the liner “United States” was driven onto the quay at the docks and damaged as she was attempting to sail. Four tugs strove to keep her away but were unsuccessful.
The weather is changeable this December, and returning again from the Fowler’s on the 19th, Gran is greeted by what she calls “the astounding news” that the warmth of the sun had brought a Brimstone butterfly out of hibernation and it was seen “flying on the rough ground opposite this house”.
Work in the flower shop is frantic during the days before Christmas. Gran helps there with many different jobs, and on Christmas Eve she delivers over sixty lots of wonderful flowers to the Stirling Castle:
But the arrangement that I found most attractive went to quite a modest tourist class cabin – a bowl with a red candle in the centre and surrounded by massed anemones, small yellow chrysanthemums, violets and white heather.
It was a lovely day, she writes, “but the atmosphere on board was stifling. I thanked God that I was not about to sail from dear old England’s shores on this Christmas Eve. I should be utterly miserable”.
Christmas, and the remainder of the year itself, pass with little for Gran to report. She rounds up 1952 on its last day with, as usual, a long “letter” to Adrian in which, among many other items recounted, often with an underlying heartache, she says, “I think what struck me most was the amazing scarcity of butterflies”. She adds too, that:
…I have much for which to be thankful, for…the New Year will bring a little new life into the world and a Grandchild must inevitably warm a heart that is capable of love such as mine…
New Year’s day is spent boxing flower arrangements for the Pretoria Castle, and Gran herself packs a varied box for “…Miss Zena Dare, that lovely actress whom I saw with Ivor Novello in at least two of his plays some years ago, “The Truth Game”, and “The First Mrs Fraser””.
Writing at the day’s end, and musing on what the year ahead may bring, she says:
Now we are at the beginning of a new year, with its unknown path before us, but if it is no worse than last year I shall be content and if it is better I shall be grateful. At all events it will, please God, see the Coronation of our beloved young Queen Elizabeth, the birth of my first Grandchild, the completion of Barry’s first year of National Service and the commencement of Jane’s career at Chelsea College. Incidentally, it will also bring my own Silver Wedding anniversary but that is relatively unimportant.
There have been many preparations for the coming baby over the last month, including the acquisition of a pram, and the knitting of small garments, and on January 2nd there are further last minute preparations:
Great Tits were uttering their familiar “see-saw” calls from the opposite wood as Jock and I went up Hiltingbury Road to catch a ‘bus into Winchester for a final shopping expedition for the coming baby. I also wanted to find a wedding gift for Jill and Sandy, and in this I was most successful, since I obtained some beautiful Italian bookends, expanding wooden ones, enamelled in rich colours. I think they will appeal to the aesthetic tastes of the recipients.
There are no details of what was bought for the imminent baby, but they get whatever is needed quickly and return home in time for Gran to work in the Pinewood Gardens, and of this she says, “…after assisting with the chicken food, since the senior partner is confined to bed after a fall, I put up apples for an order”.
She is given pause for thought on January 3rd:
I had a surprising experience when I went over to the post today! As I was returning a woman stopped me and said, “There’s a nice Pheasant over there, if you’ve got a gun”. I said, “I know, I’ve heard it but I wouldn’t want to shoot it.” She replied, “It’s there, look, on that notice board.” I looked. The Pheasant was a Green Woodpecker clinging to one of the stays of the notice! I said, “That is a Green Woodpecker”. The woman, rather startled, replied, “Oh, you seem to know. I’ve never seen one before – I thought it was a Pheasant”. I told her that Natural History was my hobby and that the Woodpecker came often to that piece of rough ground. She repeated, “I’ve never seen one before”, smiled and departed. It seems incredible to me that, though it is understandable that she might not have seen a Green Woodpecker, she also had, apparently, never seen a Pheasant or a picture of one, for surely nobody could mistake them for each other! I walked home thoughtfully, thinking how lucky I am.
Jane walks with Gran in Cranbury Park on the “rather dreary afternoon” of 11th, and Gran is pleased to go, for she is restless indoors:
We went straight up through the wood opposite here to look our last on some of our favourite yew trees, which alas, are being felled to make room for house-building.
They return home, gathering some sprays of “pussy willow” and some hazel catkins.
January 12th arrives. It’s a day she dreads because it’s the anniversary of Adrian’s death, to whom her journal is written, but, she writes:
What a day this has been! It has made me wonder just how much human emotions can stand, for I have been torn between extremes of sadness and joy. Mary says that today’s event was providential, to lift my mind from dwelling upon a past that continues to hurt, for my dear little grandson, Julian Norris, was born this morning, the very day upon which I hoped he would not arrive, for overwhelming joy seems disloyal and slightly irreverent to me on this anniversary of your passing. All the same, I have been glad for Barry and Jock and – yes, for myself too, and I would not have dimmed Barry’s radiant joy this evening for anything.
I was just about to go into Southampton to see the Doctor about my headaches, when Jock’s mother came to say that Jock had sent for her, and Julian had announced his imminent arrival. I could do nothing so I went on my way, cycling to Southampton. Great Tits were calling and a Song Thrush was singing – the air was full of melody and my heart was stirred with strange emotions. Half way up Hut Hill I came near to panic and wordless, incoherent prayers welled up within me. “Supposing things went wrong – with Jock or the baby – but why should they? Jock has been so well. Oh, God, let all be well, don’t let any harm come to either of them. Not today, I can’t bear any more today.”
Gran has an interminable wait at the doctor’s but while there, learns that Jock is already at the Mount Nursing Home, in Bassett, and that she, Joan Adelaide, will soon be a grandmother. “I scarcely remember the journey home”, she recalls, and continues, with barely controlled excitement:
…the phone out of order, trying a friend’s to ask the Home to phone there, and being told, “Baby has just been born. A boy and all well”. Trying to contact Barry, “…never heard of Pilot Officer Goater”, I was twice told, – eventually, “May I speak to Pilot Officer Goater, please?” “Speaking”. My sudden loss of dignity, “Oh, boy dear, this is Mother. You have a son and all well!” Barry inarticulate for the first time in his life, “Already! Gosh! Terrific! Oh boy!” etc. etc. Jane, beside herself, torn between laughter and tears, running to tell all her friends – more phoning – dinner, of which I remember – nothing.
There is much more this day: incongruously, weeding the border in the Pinewood Gardens; eggs to the packing station; tea with a delighted and sympathetically understanding Mary Harding; an “on my way”; telegram from Barry and “…the sun shining, blue skies, birdsong, joy and tears fighting for supremacy…”
The following day:
I went early to the village for Barry, to insert in the local newspaper, the arrival of Julian Norris, and congratulations poured upon me from all directions. It is wonderful, how, in a village community, such news as this spreads, and, Barry and Jock having been known and liked here all their lives, their baby is regarded as belonging to the entire village.
At the Pinewood Gardens, the “senior partner” Miss Cope, remains in bed after her fall, her removal to hospital apparently imminent, and the “junior partner”, Miss Bainbrigge leaves Gran in charge there while herself dashing to Eastleigh for some essential shopping. Gran says that she really had an easy afternoon, Miss Cope being comfortable and Gran:
…left in charge of the patient, the house and the telephone, neither of which, in the end, called for attention. I put on the hens’ potatoes to cook, prepared their breadcrumbs, washed up the dinner things and generally cleared up, then collected a few odds and ends from the flat for Barry, and sat down to await Miss Bainbrigge’s return.
That evening, a foggy one, Barry visits Jock and his new son, and Gran writes:
Our Doctor, Oakley-White, has gladly consented to be one of Julian’s Godfathers and John Crook is to be the other. I am pleased. Doctor White has been a very good friend to our family.
At last, on January 14th, Gran meets her grandchild for the first time, and joyfully describes him at length in her journal that evening:
…small, compact and beautiful…a well-shaped head covered with soft dark down…little face, round…hands, beautiful…deep blue eyes, wide open, looking all around, a small miracle…
She is moved to write a poem, with her hopes for his future and his character, but she does not suspect that an international athlete has just been born!
The new father must leave for Chippenham that evening, while Gran makes a second visit to the nursing home with an overawed and excited Jane, who is to be Godmother. Home again that evening, Gran writes that she can scarcely believe that Julian “has come to stay and will be ours always” and, “as little Vivien next door said, “Mrs Jock has had a dear little son-boy””.
- 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)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 48)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 49)
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