Mud On the Road

we're about to go shopping in Salisbury...

Honey, I Shrunk The Universe

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

Adventures in Dolls' House Wonderland
Just popped upstairs to fetch my sheet music';

     From the car park the hotel looked fairly average. We were in Lyndhurst, the New Forest,  on an averagely wet and unpromising Sunday. The sort of Sunday Morrissey had in mind when he wrote the song.*

     Inside  it didn't get any more or less average: a set of blank function rooms accessed via a short run of stairs leading down from a dingy lobby. This was not the stuff of dreams,  not the sort of space in which fancy might take flight nor the imagination be set free to soar.

     The lobby smelled greasy, like the London Underground on a wet weekend in Winter –unwashed anorak and bacon fat.


Posted by Deborah Courtnell

‘They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cooks' own ladles,
Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
Made nests inside men's Sunday hats,
And even spoiled the women's chats,
By drowning their speaking
 With shrieking and squeaking
In fifty different sharps and flats.’

Source: Verse II, The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning (1812 - 89)


Ruffling Feathers

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

     Today for the first time in a very long time I heard Nigella hoot loudly.

     Nigella is our little Scots Dumpy. She is two years old and ample of bosom with sleek blue-black plumage and sinewy snake-skin legs.

     All Summer she informs us how things are going in the garden with our flock of four bantams of which she is the undisputed boss. She hoots louder and that bit more triumphantly than the others whenever she lays an egg.
      I once counted 92 Nigella-hoots in a row at 5 am.

     That was before we tricked the motorised light sensor, which is wired to the pop-hole door on the hen house...into giving them and us, a lie-in.

     Should a predator hove into view Nigella  can sound so effective an alarm that she has us all, dogs, humans, the SAS, racing to the rescue.

     Occasionally, on the longest days of Summer, she comes over all frisky and surprises herself by getting airborne. Then doesn't she show off and preen: strutting about on top of our neighbour's wall/fence/shed - clucking and squawking to show us how very high, how very mighty she truly is.

     But come Autumn the chickens begin their annual moult. It's not a pretty sight. The frantic shedding of so many feathers exposes the tiny vulnerable creatures we share our lives with: in place of blood-red wattle  and combs – drab grey flaps; in place of fabulous pom-poms and plumage worthy of a 1930's Hollywood siren – bald patches of puckered skin,  bedraggled bodies barbed with spiky bits of feather shaft.

     Since October they've scuttled nervously and silently around the garden, maintaining close formation, scurrying for cover if a buzzard or kite wheels overhead.

     But the feathers have finally grown back and today Nigella issued a noisy and sustained proclamation. We have no idea what it meant – certainly not an egg  - they won't lay now until February. Perhaps it was the full moon or a mouse, or maybe she was just rallying the troops:

     'We made it through the storms and floods and gales of another ‘Fall’ girls. Claws crossed we're still here.'


Because the Woods Are Scary
Surrey Hills
But, I Am Not A Mote
I Love the M3
I Love the M3
Situation vacant
Fantasy Pub Landlady

Stop Press: Smash and Grab

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

     Stockbridge seems to have become a Mecca for lowlife and criminals in November.

     The local police have released CCTV pictures of four men who stole from the Co-op between 4.10 pm and 4.22 pm on Wednesday 7 November and now they are appealing for further witnesses after thieves stole a bronze stag valued at £5,500 in a smash and grab raid on the Wykeham Gallery at about 2 am, Saturday, 24 November.

     According  to the police the thieves smashed the front window of the gallery and stole the bronze statue which formed part of the display.

      PC James Dalton, said: “I am appealing for anyone with any information about this incident to come forward.     ‘The statue is about 26 inches tall and is very heavy. It is likely to have required two people to lift it, or possibly a van or a similar vehicle to transport it in.    ‘I am keen to speak to anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious in the High Street area during the early hours of November 23, or anyone who has any other information that could assist our inquiry.’

Anyone with any information should contact PC Dalton at Andover police station on 101 or call Crimestoppers, the charity, anonymously on 0800 555 111.



Still Raining

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

   4 pm: I walked Cally down to the Stockbridge common marsh. See the map.

    It was cold and it was raining – a very shabby Sunday afternoon. We waded more than we walked, me in my wellies, Cally-the-dog in her outsized King Kong clodhoppers. She could swat a small bi-plane if you needed her to but she’s not exactly intrepid. I’d say Cally is more placid than your average garden shed. Any adventures she’s had have been accidental.

     She did not seem overly impressed by our little jaunt but, never one to complain, she lumbered dutifully along some five feet behind me.

     What with the endless rain and all round bogginess and the dark about to come down, we had the entire place to ourselves and, even in those soggy boggy conditions, the marsh is magical.

    There were geese on the river and the usual loud and busy coots. It was too dark to see clearly but sudden pools spreading on the water’s surface and sounds of darting and splashing made me think the fish must be jumping and snatching at insects.

    A pair of swans came into land with that distinctive wah-wah sound made by their beating wings. They skidded to a halt and evidently gave the geese a fright.

     We were soaked through by the time we reached home but it was worth it.



Walking the Dog

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

     It was still raining steadily when George the big-wet-boxer-blanket and I set off for a three mile nail-trimming walk up Marsh Court Lane.

George will not allow anyone anywhere near his claws, let alone anyone brandishing nail clippers.

     Beyond the entrance to Marsh Court House we encountered not one but two flocks of sheep being relocated to fresh pastures. It was a quite a sight in the rain soaked blustery day.

     George thought so too.

     We had to abandon Plan A and headed onto the marsh instead where he splashed through puddles right up to his middle and I came unstuck in the mud.



Police Station For Sale

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

     The sweet little police station in Stockbridge is up for sale. Lambert Smith Hampton are selling the two story building, 1088 square feet, which already looks like a little house and has a front garden area, off street parking and a garage and will need change of use to residential consent.



Hurricanes Hardly Ever Happen

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

     Went to London for an early Christmas party with former British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) friends at a great pub, The Three Stags in Kennington which preserves 'Chaplin's Corner' and serves great food. See The Three Stags.

     I want to go back for one of their Burlesque nights...not too many of those in Stockbridge.

     Ahead of the evening's festivities and on the back of the lavish praise heaped upon it by BBC's Newsnight Review team last Friday, (16.11.12) I went to see the excellent exhibition 'Death: A Self –Portrait.'
     It was every bit as astonishing and rare and often beautiful a gathering of all things contemplating man's inevitable demise as you could hope for.

     As well as the Memento Mori art works, the gigantic chandelier made of prefabricated bones and the Mexican Day of the Dead skeletons, my favourite works were the eloquently disturbing yet beautiful photographs by Mexican artist Marcos Raya.
See: Death: a self-portrait.

     I had intimations of my own mortality not long afterwards when I was grievously afflicted by the most dreadful indigestion I have ever had. No doubt whatsoever it was bowl of Aubergine and Chickpea soup which I had eaten in the Peyton and Byrne canteen at the gallery.

     Driving home to Stockbridge later that night via the M3, in what had become storm force gales and constant rain, the sirens raging up and down, the traffic cones whirling about and some severe flooding on the inside lane also gave me pause.

     But by far the most enduring effects of two hours with ‘Death’ are that I now keep seeing skulls where I used to see faces.


Hereford and Hampshire

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

     Shedley Mode drove North in dreadful conditions to Hereford for a morning business meeting with the Civil Aviation Authority.

     He had, as my tormentor the GPS Predator says, almost 'reached his destination' when the flooding became so extreme he drove off the road and found himself in a ditch, water filling the car fast.

     Fortunately the water stopped at knee level,  he was able to get out, was towed to safety by a tractor and the car eventually started, enabling him to get home in time for supper.



Posted by Deborah Courtnell

     A largely happy day but one shot through with sadness as we drove to Hertfordshire to visit Shedley Mode's cousin who, poor man, has Parkinson's and is now suffering with dignity and humour the relentless and entirely humourless indignities of that disease.


A Web-shaped Hole In My Head

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

     I spent  the day trying to wrap my brain around Tweet, Twitter feeds, RSS feeds and feed burners and succeeded finally in adding a DISQUS comment box to the bottom of the Stockbridge Dog page.

     Go on, leave a comment below, you know you really, really want to...
     Went to bed with severe brain ache caused by very large web-shaped hole in brain where other, possibly vital knowledge and information used to be stored but has now leaked out and dribbled away in sheer effort of uploading internet data leaving large empty space of glaring nothingness.



The gnarled and twisted tree looks like a sleeping beast, one eye closed

Twisted tree on the marsh

Eggs, by Floyd
The Good Workman 
Myrtle in the Man-shed
Dog Fox, Lady Boxer 
Rescuing the swarm
Day of the Bee,  Part 2

Brimful of Party Part 2

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

     Wake up in real universe, with very happy memories of night before but less pleasurable sense of being  full-to-brimming-over with party.

Ate eggs and toast. All day.


Brimful of Party Part 1

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

Midnight: Am pleasurably, gratifyingly, full-to-brimming-over-with party and party happiness thanks to sister's 40th birthday celebrations.

1.00 am Have to say good-bye to beautiful revellers and lovely Mr Disco man as Shedley Mode says taxi is waiting at gate beyond perimeter of venue.

1.05 am Do not want to go but Shedley Mode says Must Stop Dancing and Leave Now Taxi Is Waiting.

1.07 am Have considered limited options available to me and decided to Stop Dancing and Leave Now.

1.10 am Cannot find taxi must be at wrong gate.

1.12 am –Ah. Have lost large security gate with armed guard as well as taxi.

1.15 am – Silly me, how careless. Must have walked too fast. Appear to have lost Shedley Mode and gate with armed guard and taxi.

1.20 am Hmm. Appear to have strayed into parallel universe in which am alone and going round and round on  loop in dark night within fenced-in area no more than 200 foot square.

1.26 am It's like Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner meets that scene in Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome where Harris gets lost in the Hampton Court maze. Almost identical in fact except unlike Harris I have no followers.

1.30 am Am saved! Have been found simultaneously by taxi /Shedley Mode/gate.

1.31 am Think about rebuking Shedley Mode for having mislaid me but err on side of caution.



Walking the Dog

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

A strange dog walk up at Stockbridge Down – thick fog and gunfire. It felt like we were under attack. Bangs to the left of us, bangs to the right. You know they're not shooting at you but at such close range and in the fog it feels like you're under attack.
     I thought about throwing myself to the ground now and then by way of a gesture  and shouting, ‘Incoming!’ But the ground looked awfully cold and damp and gestures without witnesses are surely futile and very likely the first sign of madness.
    Other walkers loomed out of the mist some fifteen, twenty feet away. They passed by without a word; faceless, bulky shapes, intent only on groping their way through the thick air.
     Myrtle watched them curiously as they lumbered by. They did not speak and she did not bark.
     Thank you God.
     This was the dog's first up-close and personal experience of fog, fog-people and sustained loud gunfire.
     She remained alert but calm. I was proud of her.
     So Hampshire has its first Police Commissioner. The independent candidate Simon Hayes won with 80, 669 votes – 55 per cent of the vote. 14.6 per cent of the electorate turned out.



Spoiling the Ballot

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

9 am: To vote or not to vote? Of course I should vote. I will vote.
11 am: I will go to the Town Hall  right now and vote. I think it's at the Town Hall. Hang on,  isn't Thursday market day at the Town Hall?
Midday: I'll have a coffee and check my emails and then I will go and vote.
2 pm: I'll go and vote because one should absolutely assert one's right to vote. It is as the politicians freqently tell us ‘the right thing to do.’
4 pm: I'll go and vote but I will spoil my ballot paper to express generalised ambiguity and Lack of Interest.
7 pm: Didn't vote



In the Great Outdoors

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

     A girly lunch at the Mayfly pub to mark my sister's 40th birthday. A sublime Autumn day: yellow trees, River Test sparkling in the sunshine, swans holding steady against the current, fat trout leaping from the water to snatch bread.

     It's warm enough to sit outside so we do. My Darling Mother, Beloved Sister and the  two year old Little Niece.  Three generations of girls all together.

     Little Niece is presented with an ornate and multi-layered strawberry pudding and a long-handled Knickerbocker Glory style spoon.

     For a solid hour she works her way through this pudding  giggling and chatting all the while. Then she gets up and before we know what's happening, she's toddled over to a neighbouring table and has pulled down her knickers and tights and is peeing like a naughty puppy on the flagstones, still chuckling gleefully to herself.


Gorgeous George


Posted by Deborah Courtnell

 I find myself thinking about Thursday - election day for Hampshire's all singing, all dancing, shiny new Police and Crime Commissioner.

     It's an odd job title: it makes it sound as though he or she will be commissioning crime.

     I won't vote for Michael Mates the Conservative candidate.

     Perhaps I'll vote for the independent what's-his-name candidate.

     If I'm not sure what his name is or what he stands for perhaps I shouldn't vote for him?

     Why am I so ignorant and ill-informed about this whole thing? I should have read the paper more attentively.

      Do we even need a Police Crime Commissioner?

     For some reason every time I think about it I'm reminded of the scene in First Blood, (1982) – the original  'Rambo' film – in which the vicious and ultra right-wing chief of police, brilliantly portrayed by the late great Brian Dennehy, orders the raggle taggle veteran out of 'his' town at gunpoint triggering the violent action which follows.


Because the Woods Are Scary
Surrey Hills
But, I Am Not A Mote
Nano world by 'Alturnative Proportions'
 I Shrunk the Universe

Tea & Grazing

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

Monday, 12 November 2012
Posted by Deborah Courtnell

     Up to London for lunch with a former boss from a previous life. Parked all day at Westfield Shopping centre in Shepherds Bush for only £5. It costs £8 for the day at Winchester Railway Station and that's if you're lucky enough to find a space out of only 450 and before you've bought a railcard and/or a ticket.

     We meet at Tibits in Heddon Street W1, an American style eaterie where you 'weigh it then pay for it' (your plate of food not your body)  and can sit for hours in comfort and drink tea and more tea and graze on all things vegetarian, many of which I do not recognise and do not have a name for.



Silence is Golden

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

     Stayed home and watched the Stockbridge Remembrance Day procession and service at the nearby War Memorial from behind a closed window.
     This way I was on hand to reassure the bug-eyed crew of three boxer dogs when the guns sounded the two minute silence right next to our house and I could ensure in turn that they didn't raise a hullabaloo and disrupt the silence.
     The Army Air Corps, based at nearby Middle Wallop has for some years now been bussing soldiers into the surrounding village churches for Remembrance Sunday services.
It's a clever move.
The presence of soldiers plus piper lends the ceremony a pleasing formality, draws military and civilian communities closer together and serves as a physical reminder of the mounting cost and sacrifice in Afghanistan.
      The service concluded with an Apache helicopter, always a dramatic sight,  doing a low, slow fly past.

The Army Air Corps at the Stockbridge War Memorial
The Army Air Corps now has a presence at the Remembrance Day Services in local villages

Groundhog Day

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

     The Stockbridge Dog page was supposed to complement the longer and more personal mudontheroad pieces with telegrammatic slice-of-life notes and observations from this particular postcode.

     Instead, this week I seem to have turned into a one-man miniature newspaper. What with a write up of an amateur dramatics charity event, a serious car crash, a warning from the police about doorstep distraction crime and my sudden incomprehensible and potentially fatal compulsion to write up the local football results and diarise upcoming AGM's, it's all got completely out of hand. I feel like I'm mired in my own Groundhog Day bad dream in which I repeatedly wake up and find I'm still on a junior hack on a small town local paper.



Eaten Alive!
Nigella, our little black hen
The Unusual Incident of the Chicken
Rise and Shine!
Rise & Shine!
Nano world by 'Alturnative Proportions'
 I Shrunk the Universe

A Proper Copper

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

Interviewed Police Sergeant Russell Hodges today, the new head of our local 'Safer Neighbourhoods Team' which now operates out of the Fire Station on Stockbridge High Street. He did a stint as a policeman in Australia and has migrated to Stockbridge from nearby Andover CID.
Saw him in full regalia out and about on the High Street later on.
Shedley said he looks like a 'proper copper'.



Put The Newshound Down

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

     There was a serious car crash barely 600 yards from  our house this morning. A driver was taken to Southampton hospital by the air ambulance helicopter; an entire pack of hounds and two horses had to be transferred between lorries. And the road, a section of the A30, was closed for hours.
     But the first I knew of it was when my sister phoned to say she'd heard about the accident on a BBC Radio 2 traffic report.....Have decided to put the newshound down. Out of her and my misery.