A Gallery of Curiosities

Sunday morning, bright as buttons we leave The Old Workshop with packed breakfasts, girly cabin bags and the week’s trophies.  Hackney-bound, we make very good time arriving late morning.  We deposit two very excited girls with their equally excited parents and walk down to London Fields to visit Tom, Delphine and Juliette.  We have a mission to fulfil; as part of Jeu de Douze Mois we are delivering a consignment of ‘shopping’ as a wedding gift.  It includes a bottle of Bolly, some cheese, packets of bickies and jars of toothsome condiments.  We enjoy a late brunch with them at The Laundry, a eating establishment which offers better than average brunching options.  We take a little walk afterwards, down towards Columbia Road Market and buy cakes at a newly opened shop to drink with tea before we head back to Downs Park Road.  Back with Dan & Co we bid a fond farewell to the Hackneys and drive back to Winterborne K.

We are returning to a mixed week of fixtures: visiting conchologists, a luncheon treat at Clos du Marquis at The Leckford Hutt with the Palmers, the village walk and a Wildlife Trust fungus foray for Nick over the weekend.  Nick learns about some different edible fungi to look out for.  He now knows a Parasol when he meets one, and we have jars of dried ones for winter stews.  For me the week culminates in two days of Bridge tuition with my neighbours Sally, Celia, Chris and Helen, hosted at The Old Workshop and taught by Barry Farncombe of Kitchenbridge.  I’ve tried to learn Bridge several times and although I understand the essential principles of the game, I have failed to retain the rules and protocol of bidding to play the game,  with a bit of insight.  As adjacent neighbours we women are well placed to consolidate what we learn although the other 4 will be at an advantage as they do not spend half their year outside the UK.

One of my conchological visitors comes to collect the shell collection of a mutual friend who has shifted his enthusiasm from shells to a detailed research project on Churches in NorthWales.  The thing that marks this collection out as exceptional is the meticulously curated assemblage of shipworm shells and samples of the wood into which they bore in life, and from which they were extracted once the wood had been cast up on the shore.  Shipworms are thoroughly idiosyncratic molluscs, having the ability to colonise a habitat which is rarely utilised by marine molluscs.  My other visitor has to come to browbeat me into taking up my scientific pen to write a couple of chapters for a specialist book on molluscs in archaeology.  Notwithstanding this we take him and his wife round to the Greyhound for an excellent lunch.

Amongst all our hosting activities we find time to do some stuff in the garden, including the planting of two new trees.  It has taken me 18 months to make a choice!  Finally after consulting knowledgeable friends and surfing the net a bit I have selected Prunus subhirtellus autumnalis for January flowers and Parrotia persica for a good canopy and autumn colour.


The latter is strategically placed to obscure the house on the far side of our neighbour’s garden, which separates us.  Nick continues to dig round the L-shaped border on the east side of the garden.  Into the shorter limb I move one of the Crinodendron hookerianum from the front garden, and a small Pittosporum which experience tells me will grow fast to add to the screening we are looking for.

Before we board the ferry on Wednesday I have also managed to make a whirlwind visit to Hilary Goddard.  It is really good to catch up with her since the occasion of Tom’s wedding and I looked through her portfolios of sketches, some of which will be worked on to produce her lovely oil paintings.  We are hoping for an oil of the French house based on the sketches and studies she made whilst she was our guest.  I am going to buy a gouache study of Canterton Pond, something she had decided should be NFS.  But for our shared love of mauve she agrees that I may buy it once it is framed.  We lunched at  The Jack in the Green at Rockbeare.

To round off our eventful pre-France interlude there is Book Group at the Greyhound, followed by a spot of Bridge revision at Celia’s on Tuesday.  On Wednesday we board the ferry in heavy rain for a windy crossing, and arrive in sunny Cherbourg four hours later.


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