The lovely site of a baby’s awakening; tastes in flower arranging; one more year of National Service; a trip to Jefferies Country; new flowers for Gran’s list; a historic Test Match; arthritis in the hips, “but I can still play a decent game” and finding friends of Gilbert Whitley.
It’s the last day of July 1953 – a wet one – and Gran is clearing peas in the Pinewood Gardens, and picking a few loganberries. She hears:
…familiar footsteps running up the road and knew that Barry was arriving. He is on leave for the Bank Holiday and was pleased to have done well in the R.A.F. Sports, winning the 440 and 880 yards and the third prize in the sack race! He ran the three-legged with the Squadron Leader but they were unplaced. His prizes consisted of three useful additions to the home – water jug and glasses, teaspoons and a leather wallet.
Gran looks after Julian for the night, while Barry and Jock go moth hunting at Mudeford with Clifford Redgrave, and in the morning she enjoys “the lovely sight of a baby’s awakening” at a quarter past six.
I leant over and laid my hand on his to feel if he were warm enough. Immediately he turned towards me and gave me his brilliant smile, so full of trust and confidence that I felt like weeping, it was so beautiful. Afterwards, he “talked” to me until I rose and went downstairs feeling unspeakably strengthened by this small but adorable person’s trustfulness, and more than rewarded for my night’s care of him.
On August 5th Gran attends an Exhibition and Demonstration of Floral Art at Southampton University, staged by members of the Southampton Horticultural Society. A lecture is given by Mrs Allen of Melbourne, Australia, who is a judge of shows held in Victoria and elsewhere. Gran observes that:
She spoke well, and stressed the point that, whilst a few basic rules are necessary to obtain balance, the arrangement of flowers is very individual and what pleases one may not necessarily please another. I did not agree with all her ideas – for instance she said that one must never put silver foliage with Autumn-tinted flowers. Well, I like silvery leaves with Autumn colouring, especially with some red-bronze as well, and one arrangement of just this pleased my aesthetic sense enormously.
The next day she is at the Fowlers’ packing boxes of flowers for the Georgic, the Stirling Castle and the Andes, and:
I also did my first arrangement, of Carnations and Scabious, with fern, in cellophane! It was surprisingly, very successful. After work I went up to Bassett with Jill Fowler, to tea, finding a very cosmopolitan household which this week includes, besides the family, a Danish young man, who has been living with them for several months now, a French boy of sixteen and an Australian Girl Guide!
After tea I returned to Southampton to meet a Naturalist friend, Mrs Mould, in order to explore the piece of waste ground between Southampton Central Station and the Docks, for I felt certain that we should find much of interest growing there.
Indeed they do, and she writes that they “found flowers everywhere, four of which were new to my list, though not strictly native, many seeds coming in with shipping cargoes”. One of these was on the British list though: Long-headed Poppy Papaver dubium.
On August 13th:
Barry, on the eve of his twenty-third birthday, has completed the first year of his National Service and joyfully (as Sandy [Cunningham] said when he rang him up) can now subtract the weeks remaining with the hope of demobilization really on the horizon. This year has gone quicker than any of us dared hope when he joined up.
And on the birthday itself, writing of her pleasure in watching the unfolding of his character throughout the years, she adds:
…and I am grateful for all the joy I have known because of him, not only in himself but also that it was on his account that I wrote that first letter which resulted in that beautiful but tragically short friendship, the memory of which is now the greatest possession of my innermost soul.
Dad is home on leave on the 15th and there is a celebratory tea at The Ridge, with Jock and Julian, and Jock’s mother present. “It was a happy party”, writes Gran, “Julian thoroughly enjoying much fuss and a scrap of icing from Daddy’s cake, whilst he sat up in his pram near the table”.
Of the 16th, Gran records, over eighteen pages:
A wonderful day, spent largely in that lovely sweep of countryside which is, in truth, “Jefferies England”, for I joined a British Naturalists’ outing to the Swindon area, the birthplace and inspiration of that great naturalist…
The Group is led by the Secretary of the Jefferies Society, Mr Adams, and they visit many of the places most closely associated with the Man, so greatly admired by Gran, walking from the coach at intervals to explore each place on foot. They include the house in Swindon “over what is now Bassett’s florist’s shop, where Jefferies lodged while working as a newspaper reporter on the staff of the Wiltshire Herald”; Coate Water, known by Jefferies as “Long Pond”, where Gran sees Great Crested Grebe – a bird new to her; the gamekeeper’s cottage “immortalized in Jefferies’ “Gamekeeper at Home””, and “Burderop Park, also immortalized in “Round the Estate””.
Gran excitedly adds a new plant to her Hampshire list on the following day, recounting its finding thus:
My young friend Maureen Toole, brought a flower which I was at a loss to identify. I could see that it was a parasite, or semi-parasitic, but further I could not be sure. I went with her to see it growing – it was not far away – and found thirty more in a small area of leaf mould about two feet square. They were growing under a Holly tree with only very sparse Ivy, Bracken and honeysuckle growing near them.
Unable to name them, Gran takes one and mails it to Kew for a formal identification but no sooner is the sample in the post than she has a sudden thought and further consults her plant “bible”, Bentham and Hooker, and “yes!”, she writes, “there was no doubt in my mind. It was Yellow Birds’ nest Monotropa hypopithys, a new plant for my Hampshire list…”
In the afternoon, whilst engaged in picking four pounds of blackberries, a pair of hated aircraft passes overhead and she complains:
…two jet aircraft flew over, so terribly low that I instinctively ducked and the noise was deafening. I was thoroughly scared…I have little or no courage where aircraft are concerned…and I felt cold shivers down my spine. When the second one was approaching I said, aloud, “Oh no!”, but it was no use. I wondered if life would be even bearable soon and thought of the beauty and peace of England as I imagined it and, indeed, saw in some measure yesterday, in Jefferies’ time.
Next day, Gran is a little reluctant to play evening tennis, preferring to continue listening to the wireless:
…the Test Match between Australia and England having roused my enthusiasm as it never has before, possibly because there is a prospect of England winning the Ashes this Coronation year for the first time in twenty years!
Her sense of duty prevails though, and she does play tennis, noting nothing of the game except that a Pied Wagtail flew over during it, identified by call, in spite of its considerable height. The Cricket continues next day, Gran, meanwhile, picking blackberries at Pinewood Gardens:
…with feverish intensity, with one ear strained towards the next-door wireless which was on in the garden, broadcasting the last stages of the Test Match, with England needing less than thirty runs for victory. I could not hear distinctly, but a phrase here and there told me how it was progressing and a wild burst of clapping and cheering proclaimed that England has at last won the Ashes again. It was a grand match, played with superb sportsmanship throughout – in fact, it was Cricket, in every sense of the word.
Gran and her young friend Maureen Toole make a round trip of forty-six miles by bike on August 20th, visiting many parts of the New Forest, Gran recording a number of plants new to her Hampshire list, and also taking great pleasure in Maureen’s enchantment with this, for her, new area. They see all sorts of lovely things, all new to Maureen: Purple Hairstreak butterfly, Marsh Gentians, nine tame donkeys keen to be stroked, Sundews in the bogs, Strawberry Clover, Parsley Water-dropwort (new for Gran) and Autumn Ladies’ Tresses.
Gran writes on August 27th, that it was an extremely busy day at Fowler’s shop:
…and both Jane and I were there. The “Queen Elizabeth” and the “United States” were due to sail at one o’clock (though this was delayed because the dockers refused to remove the gangways during their lunch hour!) and the “Athlone Castle” at four 0’clock this afternoon. We also started packing for the “Scythia” and the “Caronia”, due out early tomorrow.
Among the passengers for whom we packed flowers were Mrs Hall- Caine, presumably wife of the author, and James Johnstone, who, we assumed, was the singer. It is an added interest to try to identify the owners of familiar names.
The rain ceased for the afternoon and I played in a tennis match against Andover at Pirelli’s Sports Ground in Eastleigh. Unfortunately the arthritis in my left hip was extremely painful and troublesome today, which was a nuisance since I really felt that I was playing well, but, fortunately, though one or two of the onlookers noticed that I was limping, neither my partners nor my opponents were aware of it and we had most enjoyable games which I was lucky enough to win. I was very stiff and uncomfortable afterwards though!
The next day she has great difficulty moving about, “but” she says, “movement improves with perseverance and I think rest would be fatal, so I have kept going all day”. And in the afternoon she takes Julian, sitting up in his pram, for a walk:
We went through the opposite wood, along the damp road which, alas, is bordered now with houses on one side and the other is all marked out for building. Soon none of my lovely, silent places will remain but it is good to store up memories of their beauty and to remember the pleasure and comfort they have given me. Nuthatches and Wood Pigeons were calling where building has not yet begun.
Gran spends much time with her grandson at this time, taking pleasure in his development, pushing him around the district and sometimes caring for him overnight. She notes at one point, that, in his pram, “he was standing up and jumping in a manner quite extraordinary for seven months of age”.
On September 1st, she has very little to record for the day:
…but it has been very beautiful – at least what I have seen of it, for I have been embroiled with household chores of an extremely dusty and uninspiring nature – in short, turning out and cleaning the pantry, whose walls have for months been steadily shedding their distemper.
The McMichaels, friends of Gilbert Whitley, Gran’s friend who had emigrated to Australia some years past, had recently arrived in England on the Moreton Bay. Gran, keen to meet them but failing to be able to contact them, receives a letter from them, “asking me to meet them today [the 2nd] on the Georgic, on which they were sailing for America”. All sorts of difficulties are encountered while executing this: the Cunard Office staff tell Gran she may meet them alongside but not to go on board; any pass carried by Gran, Bob Fowler tells her, would not take her past the customs barrier on this occasion, and once the McMichaels had gone aboard, they would be unable to leave the ship again. However, she hurriedly packs some flowers for them at the Fowler’s shop and goes to the docks with the delivery van. Gran writes:
I went aboard with the flower boxes, deposited them in the ship’s nursery as instructed, and then went in search of Mr McMichael’s cabin, ostensibly with a query about a flower order. I found Mrs McMichael, she called Don, and we spent half an hour together in the lounge before I sped down the gangway and out of the docks, nobody having paid the slightest attention to me. It was good to be able to give them a send-off from our shores where they knew nobody, and the flowers which they would have received later would have cheered them on their way.
There is more excitement for her that day! Julian’s first two teeth are showing, and Gran is shown more new plants for her Hampshire list. After taking BNA Members Paul Bowman (later Plant Recorder for Vice-county 11 and co-author of The Flora of Hampshire) and Mr Southwell to see where the Marsh Helleborine grows “in the usual field in Baddesley Road”, they take her botanising in the Rownhams and Nursling area. At Rownhams, they are disappointed to see a substantial colony of Autumn Ladies’ Tresses being obliterated by a man mowing in the churchyard. Nevertheless, they find Elecampane Inula helenium, Rampion Bellflower Campanula rapunculus and the orchid, Narrow-lipped Helleborine Epipactis leptochila. “Three additions to my list in one evening and that in September!” she exclaims.
After a few days spent with Adrian’s mother (we still do not know her name) in Kingston-upon-Thames, during which they visit the Royal Horticultural Gardens at Wisley, where Bob Fowler trained, Gran is back in Chandler’s Ford on September 11th, her life back to normal and tending Arum Lilies at Pinewood Gardens. She has tennis in Southampton the following day, as well as a visit to the doctors there. She has made frequent visits to the Doctor in recent months but she never says why, though her headaches appear to have been particularly frequent lately. She writes that she had little opportunity to make any observations on her way in, by bus, since:
I travelled with our local tenor, Stanley Wheatley, who once possessed one of the sweetest-toned male voices I have ever heard, and who most certainly ought to have had the chance to make singing his career. It is too late now, and the world has lost something beautiful in consequence. I am glad I heard him when he, too, was young. He sang “I’ll walk beside you”, and, though it had no special meaning for me then, I have never forgotten it. Today our conversation was entirely about music, apart from his telling me that he was in the ‘bus because had been obliged to pension off his old car, which of late had made walking the quicker mode of progress!
The match was a draw but very enjoyable. I won my mixed double against an old enemy of nearly thirty years ago, but lost the Ladies Doubles. It makes me seem very old to be still playing, for she is younger than I, but when I am feeling well I can still play a decent game.
I found Barry and Jock just returning from a run when I reached home, and Jane minding the sleeping Julian.
- 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)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 50)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 51)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 52)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 53)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 54)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 55)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 56)
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