Spring stirs: the woodpecker drums, a lizard ventures out, Yellow Horned moths abound and Chiffchaffs sing in the woods; there’s a bit of a solar eclipse; Jane rushes between hockey and the school play, and attends a dance; Gran makes a rare visit to the cinema. Oh yes – and there is a wedding!
Gran enthuses near dawn on February 24th 1952:
I heard Barry calling urgently to me to “come quickly and see the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming in the oak tree”. I ran to call Jock and we had splendid views from a front window, watching the bird for a long time. It was drumming on a dead branch at first, moving all round it and between drumming it was pecking at the bough.
They note that the drumming tone varies according to the particular branch being used, and that the bird sometimes drums on “quite thin twigs”. At one point a Great Tit flies in and meticulously searches the area where the woodpecker had been at work, “…making me wonder”, writes Gran:
…whether the purpose of the drumming might be to cause insects etc. to crawl out of hiding in the rotten wood and thus provide the bird with a meal.
She writes on the following, overcast and dull day:
I was very disappointed to see the fog since there was an eclipse of the sun this morning but both fog and cloud cleared just before nine o’clock and it could be seen after all. Here in England the eclipse was only partial and I saw only a slight shadow at the bottom of the sun, which was so brilliant at the time that even dark glasses did not make it possible to look at for more than the briefest moment at a time. And for some time afterwards I could see a circle of green light surrounded with red even with my eyes tightly closed!
The Pinewood Garden gooseberry bed continues to claim Gran’s attention, and on the 27th, her nemesis there puts in an appearance:
I saw the ginger cat, San-Pan, teasing something and went to investigate. He fled instantly and I was surprised to see that his victim was a Lizard. Fortunately it was unhurt and slipped away into the grass. I had not thought it warm enough to tempt these little creatures out of hibernation yet, but was mistaken.
And on the 28th, (the penultimate day of the month, this being a leap year), she has to face up to some shopping, an activity she cannot abide, instead of undertaking her preferred option of reacquainting herself with some Spring flowers:
Thinking the chilly gloom intended to remain with us all day, I postponed a second visit to Compton to look at the Crocuses, Snowdrops and Aconites, and went instead to Southampton to try for some clothes suitable for Barry’s wedding. Feeling utterly depressed and like a fish out of water, hating shopping and buying clothes in particular, I was lucky to find an extremely courteous and helpful saleswoman in the first shop I entered and was able to get almost all I needed. A hat I found at a second shop, I might say the hat, for it was exactly what I wanted – soft grey feathers like a pigeon’s breast, simple, close-fitting and comfortable. And what is more, it was the first and only one I tried so I was spared the embarrassment of glaring at myself repeatedly in the mirror and disliking what I saw more and more every time!
March 1st brings the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker to The Ridge’s oak tree again, and the first singing Woodlark of the year is recorded nearby, but Gran writes:
I did not go out this afternoon since I was going early this evening to see the Winchester County High School’s production of Sheridan’s “School for Scandal”.
Of the play, Gran says:
It would be difficult to really do justice to the excellence of the presentation of “The School for Scandal” – a difficult play for a cast composed completely of schoolgirls in their ‘teens – but I can say with absolute truth that there was never a dull moment and I have seen many more experienced actresses with less ability. The dresses were superb, made entirely by the staff and the girls, the casting of the characters excellently carried out and the production faultless. The work that had obviously gone into the entertainment was well rewarded and thoroughly deserved the applause that was generously given. It would be out of place for me to criticize and praise individuals, since Jane was playing “Charles Surface” and I had seen her costume nearing completion at home, but I can safely say that the several children that I know personally quite made me forget their identity in the excellent portrayal of their several parts.
It was an evening of wholesome and complete enjoyment, enhanced for me by the previous knowledge that the Junior County Hockey Team, of which Jane is Captain, had this afternoon won their match against Wiltshire at Salisbury, whither Jane had been taken in a car by a member of the school staff, and from whence she was rushed back again to Winchester in time to take her place in the play, and, though she must have been dead tired, she had been able to so creditably do her duty to both. She is a true sport and I am proud of her.
Next morning she did not waken Jane or Barry for early service at Compton Church, “since they were both so very tired. Barry having run yesterday in the Hyde Park relay race, coming in third in his lap”.
Mild evenings around this time tempt Dad to run his moth trap, catching approximately sixty moths on the night of March 9th, including a Small Mottled Willow, which caused some excitement, being a scarce migrant. The following night, Gran tells us, he caught:
…so many Yellow Horned, that he asked me to phone his friend Clifford Redgrave, who wanted this species for his collection, and, with the fanaticism of the truly enthusiastic naturalist, Clifford, who lives at Portswood, said, “Tell Barry I’ll be with him in twenty minutes”. And he was too!
Of the yew trees opposite The Ridge, most of which are now long gone but which I remember so well from my early days, Gran writes:
Although there was no perceptible wind blowing, the pollen from the male Yews was drifting down the road in clouds, rising upwards through the trees like smoke ascending…the yew pollen is one thing which I know gives me very distressing hay-fever.
I find it almost impossible to imagine Gran at the cinema – something “other people” might do but surely not her, yet:
I saw no sunset this evening since I was persuaded by Mary and the twins to go to the pictures, a thing I have not done for over five years. It was a good film that we saw, wonderful scenery, excellent photography and some really superb pictures of African wild animals. The human element, too, was real and sensible, a small boy with his pets particularly appealing, and the whole giving over an hour of real enjoyment. “Where no Vultures Fly” is a fine picture, of a fine ideal accomplished after many setbacks.
March 27th is just days before the marriage of Barry and Jock, and Gran “…went early to Winchester to try to get a “Bride’s Book” for Jock on her wedding-day next week”, and that evening Barry’s best man visits to talk over final arrangements for the wedding. “Oh dear”, writes Gran with trepidation, “it is getting so close now and I shall miss him unutterably later on, though much will be as usual until he joins the Forces.
Next evening, Gran writes:
Jane has gone to a dance in Winchester, and, before she left, gave me today’s picture of beauty, looking radiantly youthful in a white taffeta evening gown with touches of gold, her Paris necklace of gold and mother of pearl round her neck. I wish her Grandfather could have seen “his precious”. As he always called her when she was a tiny thing.
Gran’s brother, Norris, visits from London the following day, after enough snow had fallen to hide all of Gran’s primroses, “and left only the heads of the tallest daffodils in sight”. He brings a little bit of interesting bird news:
…he went to St Paul’s to see if the Black Redstarts had returned to their haunt and was surprised and delighted to see and hear the cock bird singing there.
And Gran relates “a charming incident in connection with Jane’s dance at Winchester last night”:
Being in evening dress, she went in a taxi, and when she arrived at the Cadena Café, where the dance was being held, as she stepped from the car, her partner met her at the door and, bowing with old-world courtesy, asked her to accept a spray of red roses from him to wear on her dress. I think Jane was a little overwhelmed, but when she told me about it she said it was a treat to witness such courtesy and good manners.
On April 1st, after she and Diana Fowler attended a Southampton Natural History Society talk by Brigadier Venning on “The New Forest as I see it”, Gran received:
…a nice surprise in the shape of Cicely M. Barker’s beautiful little book of the Flower Fairies, it being in “payment” of an outstanding wager between Diana’s mother and myself regarding the Boat Race, in which, since school days, I have always favoured Cambridge and my friend Oxford, and for the last several years my crew has been the successful one. This year, however, the position was reversed, and I lost my wager!
Spring-cleaning the dining room makes Gran extremely tired next day. She does it “in order to make it presentable for displaying the presents given to Barry and Jock for their wedding on Saturday” and she writes late that evening:
I finished it only a short while ago and found polishing, ironing and hanging curtains etc., hard going after scrubbing the floor this morning and gardening all the afternoon. But it is done now and my mind is free to wander…
On April 3rd Gran tries to prepare herself mentally for what she knows will be an emotional time:
I spent a contented hour this afternoon decorating a card with bells, horseshoes, hearts, ribbons and flowers, on which to inscribe the names of those sending cheques as wedding-presents to Barry and Jock, so that they might be included in the display of gifts. It looks quite effective. The next two days will tax all my resources of courage and determination to the full but I must keep a cheerful countenance though my heart will inevitably be heavy.
She works as usual in the Pinewood Gardens next afternoon, arriving home to find that presents have arrived for Barry and Jock, which include a dinner-service, a tea-service, and:
…they have also been lucky with linen. Both Jane and I have felt restless today, not knowing whether we want tomorrow to come or not, but Barry and Jock are supremely happy and that is the main point.
“The weather was the only deterrent to a perfect wedding-day for Barry and Jock today, but even so there were several bursts of sunshine, though they did not occur at the most opportune moments”, writes Gran on April 5th. And she continues with a description of the day’s event, before which she had spent a restless night, waking “to hear the dawn chorus in full swing”, dozing again and:
…waking finally at about half-past six and [calling] Barry as promised. He slipped up to Cranbury Park, where, contrary to convention, he met Jock in the favourite haunt in which their young love had blossomed into perfection and returned with her engagement ring, which he kept until he could replace it on her finger on top of her wedding ring. He and I them enjoyed our last breakfast together before he set out on his greatest adventure into life. We enjoyed the quiet intimacy and deep understanding with each other better than the food which we were trying, rather unsuccessfully, to swallow and he told me that several Chiff-Chaffs had been calling in Cranbury.
The time seems to drag interminably for Gran that morning and, she says:
I became more and more jittery with every moment. The advent of Barry’s admirable best man, Peter Holdstock, however, did much to restore my equilibrium for he would allow no thought or mention of nervousness but was gay and charming in every way himself and perfectly at ease with us. Rain was falling when I had my first glimpse of the bride today, as she returned from a short walk with her chief bridesmaid, Jean Phillippe, but her shining eyes quite eclipsed the grey skies.
The afternoon arrived at last, and, rather sadly, I confess, I kissed Barry and wished him good luck as he left for the Church, accompanied by Peter, and Jock’s two brothers, Norman and Roger, the latter looking very smart in royal Marine uniform.
Owing to the failure of my specially ordered Carnations to arrive from Covent Garden, the florist, Bob Fowler (Barry’s Godfather) had sent me a beautiful Orchid to wear, and, though I must admit I have never imagined myself the type to wear orchids, this was one alone and matched my dress to perfection, with its rich creamy petals and glorious blush-red lobe freckled with gold. Feeling slightly dazed I managed to enter the Church with a measure of composure, but, meeting Mary’s sympathetic eyes (she was the only person of whom I was aware when I came in) I choked suddenly, but recovered until Barry turned to Jock to declare his vows when I momentarily was utterly overcome.
Jock looked like a dream Princess, her lovely brocade gown and dainty veil enhancing her own dark loveliness, and her bridesmaids, Jane and Jean, looking beautiful too, in golden-yellow long dresses, dainty full-skirted creations of fairy lightness and carrying Victorian posies of Spring flowers to tone – Primroses, Polyanthus, orange Tulips, Picotee Carnations, paper-white Narcissus, Muscari and Forget-me-nots. They wore flowers in their hair, too, just the Primroses, Narcissus and Muscari. Jock’s very beautiful bouquet was of deep crimson roses. Arum Lilies were on the alter and the organ played appropriate music until the arrival of the bride when the hymn “Jesus, Heavenly Father, Lead Us” was sung.
The simple moving words of the marriage service seemed almost unreal and having no connection somehow with Barry until I saw his face as he turned to Jock, and I wondered if it was what she read herself therein that caused her voice to falter slightly as she made her vows and her trembling lips to find difficulty in controlling themselves. But she recovered and I shall never forget the expression in her eyes as she gazed intently at Barry’s face. I was filled with pride as they stood together before the altar…
…I noticed that Jane was surreptitiously wiping tears away. I walked behind them down the aisle as in a dream and saw little, but I was told afterwards that most of their friends wept a little as they came along, hand in hand as they have so often walked together, and the light of tremendous pride on Barry’s face as he led his radiant Jock out into, alas, not fitting sunshine, but pouring rain.
Small Frances Robinson handed Jock a silver horseshoe at the door and Barbara Smith gave her another in the porch. Anthony Harding gleefully showered them with confetti as they entered their car. The reception was just what I think a reception should be, friendly and gay, but not too convivial, happy but not too boisterous…Hugh Robinson proposed the toast to the bride and bridegroom…Barry responded very creditably on behalf of his wife and himself, and then John Crook proposed the bridesmaids. He really excelled himself, saying, among other things, that though the function of lovely bridesmaids was to enhance the beauty of the bride, this one was doing very well on her own, and he closed his speech by producing an eighteenth-century book on etiquette and reading therefrom details of the correct behaviour for the bridesmaids. The best man, Peter Holdstock, responded on their behalf, enjoying a few sly remarks to John and that was all.
In the meantime, Frances, and small brother Anthony, were making a good job of clearing up the icing sugar left on the stand when the cake had been cut by Barry and Jock and carried away to be cut up into portions. I only hope she survived the car journey back to Sandy Down without needing medical aid!
…it was pouring again when [Barry and Jock] were ready to leave so I was unable to get any photographs. Jock looked very attractive in a grey costume, with touches of yellow, grey shoes, scarf and handbag, and yellow beret. I gave them both sprigs of white heather, a hurried kiss and, amid a shower of confetti and rose-petals, they had gone. About thirty of the guests came back here to see the presents and I was gratified to hear that my bowl of small Spring flowers had called forth much admiration and the English-grown Mimosa was a source of wonder to many.
At last Jane and I were left alone, and, whilst it had been grand to have so many well-wishers to bid Barry and Jock Godspeed, I had by now reached the limit of my endurance and was glad to relax. It had been a beautiful wedding, but something of an ordeal for me, though I do not think many guessed my innermost feelings.
- 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)