The weather today could not have been more different from yesterday. As it was ten degrees warmer and sunny, Jackie was prompted to pore over maps to find a spot from which I could walk and she could potter. She came up with Lepe beach, on the other side of the Beaulieu estuary from Bucklers Hard (see post of 12th January), and drove us there. Leaving her in the carpark I walked along the beach in one direction, and back along a road above it. A kind gentleman thrust a parking ticket, valid for the rest of the day, into my hand as I got out of the car. He’d only used it for ten minutes. This quite often happens in The New Forest area. We had marvelled in the car that we now live in the midst of so many places that tourists drive long journeys to enjoy. The tide was out as I walked along the strand watching a solitary yacht wending its way through the river mouth. Scavenging birds were gathering rich pickings. They ignored a headless fish. There was a very strong smell of seaweed. With the water on my left, much of the land on my right was in private hands and fenced off with instructions for the public to keep out under threat of marauding dogs. The guidebook Jackie had produced described the road above the beach as the route to be used at very high tides. There was also a board in the car park explaining that, because of the melting polar icecap, the sea level was rising. With the tide coming in and my time running out I decided to climb a wooded bank up to the recommended road. By the time I returned to the carpark much of the sand and pebbles I had walked along at the beginning was under fast-moving water that splashed up over a concrete wall. Before meeting Jackie, I popped into the cafe and bought a leaflet on D-Day at Lepe. As I enter the car, there, on the passenger seat, lay another copy. Jackie had thought it might interest me. We learned that Lepe was a major departure point for troops, vehicles, and supplies in the Normandy landings; like Bucklers Hard it was a construction site for part of the prefabricated floating Mulberry Harbour; and a mainline base for the P.L.U.T.O pipeline. After this we dropped in at The Firs. Elizabeth was out, but a roofer was working on a dilapidated chimney stack which had suffered greatly during the last twelve months of rain. He went into great detail about the problems, but he rather lost me. All I can report is that it was wet, crumbling, had vents in the wrong place, and grew ferns. Jackie watered greenhouse and garage plants and drove us home. I then walked to Seamans Corner postbox and back to post Jessica’s birthday card enclosing a bit of dosh. The most apologetic contractor who had forgotten our correct replacement toilet seat came to fit a new one. It still doesn’t fit properly, but it is a match for the split one. When this building was converted, no expense was spared in fitting out the flats to a high specification. This included, in our flat at least, a kind of baroque shape to the bathroom equipment. Given that the landlord’s agent was only prepared to authorise a ‘like for like’ replacement for what had been in place when we arrived, we had scoured the internet searching for the correct original. It would have cost £300. That seemed like the cost of a golden throne. We didn’t bother. We had not been to the Imperial China restaurant in Lyndhurst before, but booked a table for their Valentine’s Night set meal. As we scanned the menu’s eleven items a waitress told us we didn’t have to choose because we were getting it all. There followed an excellent meal. Jackie’s was accompanied by T’sintao beer and mine with white then red du Beouf wine. Behind me, but in full view of Jackie, was a platignum blonde in her forties wearing outrageously fun platform shoes. Jackie was so fascinated by these that I got up, went over, and informed their owner. It went down quite well. Afterwards I chatted with the proprietor about living in Soho’s Chinatown. My readers will know that I had lived there during the 1970s. Our host, Gary Kwok, had been a boy there then.