Whilst seated in the arbour at The Firs this morning, Jackie and I speculated about how the hedgehog had got itself perched up on the top of an unidentified tree. 

Mike Kindred telephoned me and we talked through my views on a new Listener Crossword he is preparing for publication.  Although there were a couple of clues I didn’t greatly appreciate, the general idea and its execution I thought were excellent.  As we usually solve each other’s puzzles cold, that is without any assistance, and this one involved cracking a code, I spent rather a long time on it and had to confess myself beaten.  Codes in advanced cryptic crosswords are my weak point.  We agreed that Mike’s title for the puzzle doesn’t quite work, and are both therefore thinking about another.

Leaving Jackie to the gardening, Elizabeth and I went off to Winchester with Mum to change a couple of pairs of slippers which didn’t fit.  We had a great deal of trouble finding a parking spot.  Even disabled bays were all full.  At last we found a space in what turned out to be a loading bay.  Mum is now able to walk a short distance with the aid of two sticks.  We helped her out of the car and I walked her to the first of the shoe shops she was to visit, while Elizabeth sorted out the car.  We sat on seats in the shoe shop, explaining that we needed to change Mum’s slippers which would be arriving in a minute.  I assured the puzzled assistant that they did not possess magical qualities, and would be carried in by Elizabeth.  When my sister entered the shop she said parking was not allowed there and several people had tickets.  A woman in a car in front was disabled and had not been given a ticket, so Elizabeth felt sure she would herself be safe from being charged with transgression.  I wasn’t so sure, and volunteered to go back and stand guard over the car. Soon after I arrived a large, fully loaded, car drew up and the driver asked me about parking facilities.  I recounted our fruitless search, and told him what I was doing.  As a woman and two children emerged from his car, he decided to do the same.

Naturally we got talking.  James, the driver, was a very large opulent looking gentleman who had driven all the way from Croydon, to transport his friends to Winchester to buy school uniform.  A very friendly man, he sported a huge jewelled cross around his neck and wore a decorative shirt and cream winkle-picker shoes.  He was proud of the boy he had brought down from Lewisham, because he had won a scholarship to a school which cost £35,000 a year.  His siblings, the children of a wealthy Nigerian family, not being so intelligent, were fee-paying pupils.  I didn’t ask how many there were.

My conversationalist began to  wonder how he was ‘going to get out of here’.  He indicated  some rather confusing traffic signs.  He thought they must mean he should turn right, but there was another sign forbidding this.  My reading was that cars should go straight on.  This would mean ploughing through pedestrians enjoying shopping in the sunshine.  And we didn’t think, if he left first, Mum would be able to get out of the way.  We were in a one-way street.  Every car which travelled down it whilst we were there, either turned right, or reversed back up to the entrance to the street.  I told James that Elizabeth would know what we were meant to do.  She did.  She explained we should go straight on and turn left at Monsoon.  He didn’t look convinced.  We went straight on and Elizabeth did a pretty good impersonation of Moses parting the waves of the Red Sea.

We went on to visit the National Trust’s Winchester City Mill.  This is a mediaeval mill, recently restored to full working order.  Elizabeth dropped us off as near to the mill as she could and I walked Mum to the mill, holding up the traffic for her to cross the road.  Our mother was justifiably pleased that she could negotiate several flights of steep steps and take herself across a metal grill with only the help of a handrail, because her sticks would have gone through the grill.  Always a determined character, she was dead set on seeing the mill works.  I bought Elizabeth some hardy perennial plants which we left at the till until we left the mill.  At least, that was the intention.  As we were reaching West End, I remembered them.  They are still at the till.  Until Elizabeth collects them.

It had been a beautiful morning, but the sky clouded over soon after we returned.  I was able to trim the lawn edges preparatory to mowing, which will have to wait until tomorrow.

This evening Elizabeth, Jackie, and I relaxed and ate in Eastern Nights.  We were their only  dining in customers, and the new waiter who recognised us from another restaurant whose employment he had just left, spent a lot of time chatting to us.

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