As we had experienced a slight frost last night, it was time to bring in the last of the potted geraniums, fuschias, and other less hardy plants for overwintering in the garden room and garage. I had fondly imagined this would be a simple matter of transporting pots across the garden, even if some were heavy enough to require a wheelbarrow. Not a bit of it. Under instruction from the head gardener all plants required dead-heading and the removal of wasted leaves; and in one case mass slug infanticide was necessary.
This activity took place after my morning walk for which Jackie drove me to the Royal Victoria Country Park near Netley. Only the central tower section of the vast building which was Britain’s first purpose built military hospital, opened in 1863, now remains. Jackie found herself a coffee, made herself comfortable, and settled down to her book whilst she awaited my return. I walked halfway round the park, then took a muddy track which ran roughly parallel with Southampton Water. One part of the route, which merged with the shingle, was signed Solent Way. Despite warning notices there was evidence of a number of fires on the beach. The path ran out on the approach to a jetty at Hamble, and I retraced my steps, continuing further round the park to discover various woodland paths, the most populated of which was wide, tarmaced, and led to a sunlit hillside cemetery which contains the graves of those patients of the hospital who did not survive.
On my journey out to Hamble I had passed two women running on the shingle. Having myself carried out training runs on sand, I recognised that this was a seriously strenuous effort which reminded me of the wonderful beach running scene in that exhilarating film, ‘Chariots of Fire’. Our paths were to cross twice again during a ninety minute walk. By the third time they looked a bit hot.
Before I came down from the track to join the shingle for the approach to the jetty, I had noticed two figures collecting something on the beach. On my return I continued along the pebbled strand a little longer and consequently met what turned out to be two women from Leicester who were gathering shells to take back home when they returned from staying in Hamble with the parents of one of them. When they asked me where I was from I mentioned that I had been born in Leicester. This rather delighted them and one said; ‘it’s a small world’. I also mentioned my uncle Roy Hunter who has lived in one of the first homes on Leicester’s New Parks Estate from its very inception a lifetime ago. I didn’t mention that I had three times run the Leicester marathon; or the details of my birth. I was born in Leicester General Hospital on 7th July 1942 seven weeks premature, which in those days was probably a rather dicey haste. I weighed a mere 5lb. 6oz.; was of somewhat Simian appearance; and was covered in dark hair. Sam, in describing Malachi’s first emergence, mentioned that his son still bore some of the body hair which is a normal covering in the womb. I hadn’t realised this. Given my premature arrival it is therefore probably not surprising that I was a little more hirsute than usual.
Mum and I stayed in the hospital for seven weeks and consequently developed a relationship with the nurses who comforted Mum with the words: ‘Bring him back when he’s 21. He’ll be six foot and handsome’. Well, I grew to be 6′ 3”. The rest is in the eye of the beholder.
Danni, ably assisted by Andy, spent the whole afternoon preparing a marvellous roast chicken meal for Jackie and me, Elizabeth, and Lynne and Paul, and of course, themselves. It was greatly appreciated by us all. Jam sponge and trifle followed. Two red wines, Budweiser, and Stella were imbibed. Afterwards, I didn’t even have the courtesy to stay awake as Jackie drove us back to Morden.