A guided walk; the Church of St Matthew, Otterbourne; the baby comes home, and he has a new bath; Snowdrops gathered for the 15th year; a talk on trees and shrubs; an uncomfortable dinner-dance; Italian nostalgia and sympathy for the flood victims.
On January 17th 1953 Gran leads a group of British Empire Naturalists’ Association members on a walk between Compton and Winchester along the Itchen Valley. They see a range of common wildlife but the most important thing, from Gran’s point of view, is that it boosts her confidence, and she writes:
It had been an enjoyable afternoon and the members thanked me for conducting them, as they said, so ably along a very beautiful and interesting stretch of English countryside. I need not have felt so nervous about undertaking the venture and I now contemplate the trip to Avington Park next month with less trepidation. I am too used to being a lone wolf to relish taking a party on my excursions but today’s number was not overwhelming and they were all very nice and friendly people.
Desperate for Spring to show its face, she makes her way to Poles Lane on the afternoon of the 18th, hoping to see the first Lesser Celandines of the year in flower there. The wintering thrushes, Redwings and Fieldfares, she tells us, are abundant, but she does not say whether she finds Celandines. However, “On reaching the old Dutch Barn”, she complains:
I was horrified to see the brushwood in the hazel thicket cut and left in swathes ready for beansticks. Here was the rare Helleborus viridis (Green Hellebore), if not completely annihilated by the trampling feet of the woodmen, then exposed hopelessly to all and sundry passing along the road. Upon investigation it was proved to have escaped the feet and was in bud, though only a few inches through the ground. I hope it survives the Spring for it is a great rarity and one of my favourites.
Gran’s fear for the Hellebore was probably unfounded, since management of hazel woodland for coppice products was a long-standing traditional activity and it typically rejuvenated the shrub layer and the ground flora.
Further on her way, she gives a nice description of the favourite old church that she visits occasionally, little of which remains today, although its graveyard is carefully preserved:
It was still comparatively early when I reached Otterbourne so I turned down Kiln Lane to look at the little old Church again. Unfortunately it is now derelict inside, and the graveyard neglected, which seems wrong to me. The carved Altar rail is still intact and the oaken Altar remains but little else in the body of the Church, though the candlesticks and the chairs and hassocks were there since I came to Chandler’s Ford to live. The Commandments, in gold upon black boards on the wall on either side of the Altar are still legible, but the lettering upon the tombstones in the floor is difficult to decipher now.
The one near the Altar, however, is that of Elizabeth Downes, wife of Robert Downes, who died in May 1709. I cannot discover the date of the building of this little Church but it was replaced by the new Otterbourne Church in 1838, which latter had been erected under the direction of John Keble who found the little Church too small for the growing village. In the old Church three early English Arches led to the chancel, the one on the South having been closed by the pulpit. Sir Isaac Newton and his adopted daughter, Catherine Barton, worshipped here in the “Cranbury Pew”, which closed the arch on the North. On the North side of the Church there was a gallery for men, entered from the outside by a step-ladder, and in a small square weather-boarded turret were two sweet-toned bells. The Early English doorway now forms the entrance to the boys’ school at Otterbourne. The old marble font lines the present font in the new Church and a still older font was found hidden under the West gallery.
I went early into Southampton this morning to complete for Jock the shopping she intended to do on the day Julian was born. Gulls had joined the Pigeons at the Civic Centre, flying low and seizing scraps of food in passing…
After trying every shop I could for an enamel bath for Julian and being told that all had gone in the sales last week, I eventually got one at a Baby Shop at the top of the town, of course, far more expensive than those seen earlier this month, but, by scraping together all my loose change, I managed it and bore it off in triumph, running in a most ungrandmotherly way for the bus which I saw coming. A considerate driver waited for me!
Later, in spite of an incipient migraine, she works in the Pinewood Gardens, for, as she says:
…things are difficult for Miss Bainbrigge now, Miss Cope having been taken to hospital yesterday. She has made no progress towards recovery since her fall before Christmas.
That morning, with Christmas money given to her by Adrian’s mother, Gran had bought the last book written by Jeffery Farnol, whom, she notes, had died in August last year. She says that it promises to be as delightful as his previous ones and she would like to collect all his books.
Next day, in Southampton, Gran helps to prepare flowers for two ships; the Dilwara and the Carnarvon Castle, and then she calls in on Jock and Julian, noting on her way, on Southampton Common, …”a clump of Ruscus aculeatus (Butcher’s Broom) on which the flower buds were discernible on the spiky cladodes”.
I found Jock and Julian in the pink and was amused by Dr White’s flying visit, in the course of which he tried to tell me not to spoil the baby, and I reminded him that often godfathers did that as well as Grandmothers.
The mother and child are due home in two days’ time and Gran “sets the flat in order” at Sparrow’s Hedge and airs the bed ready for their return. Leaving there for The Ridge, along Oakwood Road, she notes:
… I was disturbed to see that it was being marked out for building plots and, if the opposite side is treated the same, it will mean the end of Pyrola minor, the little Wintergreen which I first found there in 1928. It is a sad thought.
Our neighbour, Mr Bugby, kindly offered to fetch [Jock and Julian] in his car and they reached home before half-past three…I found that being a Grandmother is a heart-warming experience, particularly when I held the tiny fellow closely and his little whimpering ceased. Barry, bless him, seemed rather amazed at his mother and said, “I love you with a baby”, and I reminded him that, after all, I did have two of my own! Yes, life may hurt, but I am glad I had children and that now I have a grandchild. I had almost forgotten how lovely a baby feels in one’s arms.
Gran quotes with pride a piece she reads in Dad’s copy of The Symondian, the Peter Symonds’ School magazine:
…the 1952-53 copy of which came to him by post this morning. It was contained in the Southampton letter by “Sotoniensis” which gives news of Old Symondians who go to Southampton University. I think it is worth remembering! “B. Goater (1942 – 49), having recently taken unto himself a wife, still managed to pass finals in botany. Not content with these achievements, considerable though they may be, he was also captain of the Cross-Country Club, (gaining his colours in both cross-country and athletics). Further to this, he became Southern Universities Champion for the 880 yards. Whither goes he now? – to the RAF!”
Gran’s annual pilgrimage to Hursley to gather Snowdrops for herself, and for friends, but primarily for Adrian’s “Garden of Sleep” in Kingston, takes place on February 1st. She writes:
This afternoon I went to Hursley for the fifteenth year in succession to pick snowdrops in the garden of my friend Mrs White, who has so generously granted me this wonderful privilege each year since Jane was three years old!
Later, Gran is pleased to hear on the wireless her favourite violinist, Tom Jenkins, voted the most popular musical entertainer for 1952:
There was no “Grand Hotel” on the wireless tonight since there was a gala performance from the Scala Theatre at which the Daily Mail International Radio Awards were presented. Accepting the Award, Tom Jenkins said, “Thank you very much Ladies and Gentlemen. When I first heard of this award I meant to cut it up into nine pieces and give one to each member of the Orchestra, but it is so beautiful that now I think I shall just keep it to myself and buy them all drink instead”. He was presented with a silver microphone.
On the evening of February 3rd, Gran attends a lecture in Southampton on “Some Shrubs and Trees”, by G. A. Farrant, F.H.S. She recounts all she learns in several pages of incredible detail, showing either that she has a fantastic ability to recall facts or that she wrote copious notes during the talk. The latter, I think. We learn, amongst many other details, that the Horse-chestnut was introduced to Britain from the Balkans during the reign of Charles I; that all conifers in this country are introduced non-natives except for Scots Pine, Yew and Juniper; that the scent of Philadelphus, mis-named Syringa in Gerrard’s Herball, is described as a “pleasant sweet smell, but troubling and molesting the head”; that there is a fine specimen of Wellingtonia near Keble’s Cross in Otterbourne churchyard, and that you can punch its soft bark as hard as you can without hurting the fist (something I was taught and encouraged to try in my earliest years); and that, “the only tree in the same order as the Antirrhinums, is the Paulownia, from China, of which there is a specimen in a garden at the edge of Shawford Downs”.
I went to a dinner-dance at the Royal Hotel, Southampton this evening, to celebrate a nephew’s coming of age, but such events are not really in my line though I enjoyed the music, and the dinner was good. But I do not dance these days and migraine spoiled things somewhat – I found the noise and excitement exceedingly trying under the circumstances – and I was not really sorry to come home.
I remember, years ago, hearing of the great flood of 1953 along the North Sea coast of England, when, as Dad told me, Bewick’s Swans were seen swimming down the main street in Cley-next-the-Sea. Describing the weather the following evening, Gran refers to these floods:
Happily, at present, there is no wind, and I pray that there will be no return of the gales which caused such sad and devastating floods and havoc on our East coast and in Holland where hundreds of poor people have lost their lives and thousands are homeless. I thank God for the blessings that I know.
The weather is cold, Gran noting on the 7th that “the frost never left the shady parts of the garden and washing quickly froze on the line”. And she does not go out that afternoon, writing that instead, she:
…listened to a programme about Italian music and customs which brought to me a nostalgic sweetness and sharp pain as the familiar voices and characteristic noises awoke memories of long ago, before Life had driven the iron into my romantic soul – the voices of the women singing in the vineyards, the café orchestras, the violins playing the haunting melodies of this enchanting country, and the sweet tenor voice of the wandering troubadour singing the lovely, sentimental serenades which to the mind of a romantic seventeen-year old girl were the height of bliss.
I remembered the intense pride and pleasure that I felt when the leading violinist of the Carlo Felici Orchestra bowed when I clapped and later came to ask, “What would the Signorina like us to play now?” and thereafter always came to our table for my choice before commencing the programme. I remembered too, the sunshine and warm friendliness of the people, the lovely buildings, the magnificent scenery, the wonderful pictures and sculpture, the smart uniforms and delightful flowers, the gentle brown eyes of the little girl Guilitta, where we stayed at Quinto, and the saucy, merry brown ones of an impudent soldier on a tram.
Freezing temperatures continue and Gran notes that the garden birds are particularly hungry, the Great Spotted Woodpecker, “questing in the clefts of the bark on one of the birch trees”, and:
It was such a bitter morning and so many birds were waiting that I gave them quite half the cheese ration, a pot of mutton fat, some bacon rind and bread crumbs, and what a circus there was – Thrushes, Blackbirds, Chaffinches, Great Tits, Bluetits, Coletits, a Marsh Tit, Starlings, Sparrows and Hedge Accentors scuffling and squabbling in their efforts to get as much as possible.
1953 was the year in which much wartime food rationing came to an end, and cheese (2oz per adult per week) was de-rationed in 1954, but for now, Gran apparently thinks hungry birds take priority over humans when it came to sustenance! But she does feed the family that day, the midday meal typically being referred to as “dinner” in those days, rather than lunch:
Barry, Jock and Julian came to dinner with us and very delightful it was to have them. Julian grows apace and his eyes, deep blue, are now showing signs of recognition and he is acutely conscious of noise or movement. It was nice to hold a tiny baby in my arms again.
That evening, February 8th, there is more weather. There has been a little snow, and:
A rising gale has added to the unpleasant conditions without, and the sudden, violent change of temperature has produced damp walls and streaming glass in bookcase and cabinet in my room, but I am thankful that I have a home and warm bed tonight. The four hundred and fiftieth performance of “Grand Hotel”, by Tom Jenkins and the Palm Court Orchestra tonight, was given to an audience of the East Coast flood victims and this has humbled me and filled me with thankfulness.
- 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 Joournal (Part-48)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 49)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 50)
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