Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Six Impossible Things before Breakfast- Freshwater Style.

Dearest Emily,

It was lovely to see you and Annabel this weekend. I shall always remember telling you off in a very serious voice "Emily, we do not bite. Biting people is not polite," and how you looked at me equally seriously and said "GiGi, did you know that rhymes?"

This weeks post is all about that old Isle of Wight magic I was telling you about. Ok, its not abracadabra stuff, but it happens here, and when you least expect it. Here's a few recent examples;

1. The Truffle- part One-

There we are Em, sitting in the Secret Tea Garden, enjoying an impromptu Birthday party. A lovely customer who I met at the Rhythm Tree festival has come over to buy her Angelo Tee shirt, and brought her red-haired daughter Matilda along too.
Pete and Becky the dog accompany, and we are all enjoying Matilda's antics, which involve guessing who she's acting (though, we must admit, it's a tricky game to play, as most of the people we are guessing are friends of hers that we do not know!)
All of a sudden- a voice is heard coming from the shop "Oi- Oi-where's the red-haired girl?" and a man appears bearing gifts.
I go along with this Em thinking it's something they had planned, and take charge of a very large truffle.
Said truffle has been foraged here-abouts, and said forager is called Russell- now instantly named Truffle-Russell.
We are all absorbed in the truffle, and detailed instructions are given on how to dessicate it, and serve once all the dessicating bit is done.
It is some time afterwards that it suddenly dawns upon all of us, that this delightful and rare gift has nothing to do with any of us...
The truffle receiver was meant to be another red-haired friend who was planning on moving in upstairs. Somehow Truffle-Russell has decided she's here already and we are the right destination.
Graciously, Truffle-Russell decides that we are to have half, and he shall deliver the other half to the correct red-head (so that she can train her dog to truffle-hunt.)
Everybody's happy- and we divide our half again, birthday girl goes off with a quarter, and so do I.
Back at home, as directed, I get rock-salt, and finely grate the truffle (with the dogs going potty for the smell beside me.) I carefully pack the salt over the top of the grated truffle, and place it on top of the bread-bin, away from Marley's long reach, to do its dessicating thing.
We shall come back to this one later Em...

2. The Curious Co-incidence of the Ghost-story, and the Ghost-Story-teller's Host.

Several years ago now, a man had an extraordinary experience at a Paranormal Evening at Dimbola (they do these things here Em- it seems quite the thing.)

This man, was a Surveyor, and not the impressionable kind. He had gone along to the event grudgingly, as his wife- who normally accompanied his sister-in-law, didn't fancy it. These particular events were hosted by a chap who is very entertaining, and holds evenings like these regularly all over the Island- a Mr Tuckey.

Now, the way I came to hear his story was curious too, Emily.

It was two and a half years ago- when I was working at The Bookroom, and writing your sister's little book. I blogged about it at the time- here's an excerpt..

Chap comes in and searches the Local History shelves. He's been in before, so I know his face. Somehow- upon choosing his purchase, we get chatting about Dimbola. The long and short of it Em, is that he tells me a story about a Medium or two- and what he is telling me- mirrors the theme of my tale. SPOOKY! - Keeping details to myself- as requested, but it sent me into a bit of a 'Writers Block' until dear Prof. Bob, upon hearing what I've said to you- told me it's an 'ism type thing. Got a name- like Factor X, or something similar. Will look up when I have time- and when you are older, will tell you the back-story.

Back to the present-time Emily, and Mr Tuckey the 'Ghost-Man' has become a regular customer at my shop over the last few months. Whenever I mention that he's been in to Grumpa, he tickles himself by retorting "Did you see the Ghost-Man?" and then visibly appreciates his own wit.
Now, I have told Mr T, about this tale, however though I have a written report of it- I was asked by the teller not to send it on to anyone. 

Mr T, is very interested because that particular night was significant for all of his troupe, and since that night they had decided not to go back to Dimbola- until now. 

As you know Em, my own theory is that there is some kind of 'negative' energy there-abouts that pervades today. I've written about it in Annabel's book (which I was amidst when the man told his story, as you recall.) Mr T decided it was time to go back, and had just come to my shop after booking the session in- when...

Hey-presto! - The story-teller appears in my shop, and recognises Mr T. He tells him the story- and gives me the ok to send on his report.

Curious co-incidence.

3. About Bartering Lobster and WiFi...

This one is quite a simple one.

Our neighbour in Terrace Lane was a fisherman, who runs a shop in Freshwater. I used to get a lobster freshly caught from him now and again for our supper. He would deliver it live, with his little black-cat Storm following him up the lane. They were an amusing sight approaching our doostep- all six-foot five of Andy, with bucket and lobsters, and little Storm-cat acompanying a few steps behind.

The preparation of supper, once heralded much barking by Milly, who had seen a lobster (and a crab) trying to crawl out of a bucket in the kitchen- and witnessing me drop them into boiling water, and then eat them- caused a rather strange expression. The impression that her owner was now a murderer, and she never knew she had it in her springs to mind.

Nowadays, Andy has moved his Fishing Tackle shop, next door to GiGi. So, we are neighbours again.

This time round I get my lobster already cooked, and bartered for my WiFi.

We do enjoy a bit of lobster and salad for lunch Em.

You remember Storm-cat, he is in Annabel's story...

4. Returning Books.

Do you remember the story about the man who sold me your first edition Alice in Wonderland?
It was again back at the time I was working in The Bookroom. 
Well, a chap turns up at my shop last week- mistaking the sign outside for antique valuations- pertaining to the Estate Agents next door, and realising his mistake, offers me some books.
It's our lovely Alice man Emily, and I get to buy more of his fabulous stash!
He's ninety-two now, and still asking cheekily "Do I look my age?" (he does not.)

5. Tumbling Towers.

I have to say at this point Emily, that the last few months have been, let's say, a little bit trying on the tenant-front. The rotten floor boards we knew about when we moved in, and the Landlords feeble attempts at 'mending' them, by hammering bits of rotten wood to equally rotten joints did not inspire confidence in his ability to maintain the building. Grumpa bought new joists to make good the worst of them, and all winter (and every time it rains) I keep up a complicated regime of 2 de-humidifiers, and bleaching the mould that encroaches. A further clue as to his regard for the building and its inhabitants was given when the cast iron pipe dangled precariously above the kitchen door (he had gaily nailed in a plastic pipe behind it some time previously, and time had granted the dislodging of the cast-iron pipe in front and its ability to fall on someones head to come to fruition.) No amount of urgency became of our concern- and all hope of a tenancy with landlord doing repairs diminished.

So- wishing to stay, I offered to buy it. We shall do our own repairs. A price was agreed, put in writing and off to the solicitors I go.

We hear nothing. I write to him. Eventually, two weeks ago, he turns up. "Oh, I was worried you didn't want to buy it", says he. " I do" says I, and we are back on. Except the game has changed. The freehold, is now leasehold, and the garden is now not a part of it. 

10 days ago- the tenants on the top floor move out. I go to see the top flat- which is spacious and crumbling, but a fair rent, and my friend with the red hair quite fancies it. She sees it, he accepts her references, and off she goes planning redecoration etc.

Suddenly- that changes and he has decided to sell the flat instead. He comes to me and tells me I can buy it along with my shop and get the freehold to boot. I ask the price- and we are in a very strange place. The price is akin to the asking price for a refurbished one next door. Flying a kite methinks, so decide a structural survey will highlight this, and look around for a good one. In the mean-time- the garden story is getting even more complicated. The builder next door had spun me some yarn a couple of weeks ago about my landlord wanting to get in touch with him, and did I have his number? "I'll phone him and see what he wants then, don't know why he came to find me...I'll just ring him now and see." It transpires that what he was actually doing was offering our landlord money for the garden to turn into parking spaces for his refurbished flats next door. 

Okay, so I'm a little confused about my own plans- as the swirling scenarios about what is on offer and at what price change almost daily, as I'm emptying dehumidifiers, and bleaching floorboards. 
The floor gives up- and two bookcases descend. So, I brace that part of the floor, and call in a trusty joiner friend for a price to renew the sinking battleship.

Add into the mix- the builder next door is waging war on the old Bank Vault. Bringing in a JCB, and letting me know at 4pm the day before I have Open Studios in the garden, wasn't ideal, but we dealt with it. Neither, was the even larger JCB, that arrived two days ago- the night before we were holding a Talk. "Oh, don't worry" he says "We'll be finished before then." 

Swirling scenarios continue in my head as I approach my little Noah's Ark of a shop as he says "You might want to be careful."

"Why? " I ask without being naive- as things are right now- it could be anything.

It was quite something.

The Landlord had taken it upon himself to drill out the markings for a window- in the top floor, facing over the street above our shop door. I watched incredulously as brick fell down in front of me, and people gathered in the street shouting up at him.

Even more incredulously, the scene became even more fantastic as, when challenged by the Police, and the public- he was heard to say "It's all right. This is a private pavement" as he brought out a door and a ladder to barricade himself in, whilst he continued to drill out 30 feet above and falling masonry tumbled down into the street below.

About this time, the JCB started up out the back. It was loud.

The policeman called the Council, and stood watching the Landlord, who whistled away, walked up and down, was heard drilling inside, and eventually told "If you do not stop, I shall arrest you."

He did stop- and today we await the council's decision. I can't think it will be favourable to the landlord, and I rather suspect there is no lintel involved in said work, and that the roof is now in danger of moving. Watch this space Em...

In the meantime- the JCB shows no signs of stopping for our Talk- so we hold it indoors- with drilling sounds to accompany it.

I'm not so sure I want to buy the shop here anymore Em- just got the estimate for the floor. At £4,000, I can't see our Landlord stumping up for it, can you?

6. Trifling with Truffles. Part two-

Mean-while Emily, back at the ranch- I had been patiently awaiting dessication. My somewhat fertile imagination, was playing with ideas of '13 O'clock Brunches', next year in the Secret Tea Garden- sometimes accompanied by Lobster, sometimes by the odd Isle of Wight Truffle. You can see where I'm coming from here Em.
So, I enter the kitchen, and go to the top of the bread-bin. Hmm, no truffle. 
I look outside in case Marley has sprouted Mr Incredible paws and managed to reach the Top Prize.
Nope- no tell-tale ramekins 'ere in the garden.
Whew, must be somewhere then.
I search high, I search low, but no Truffle to be seen.
Grumpa is called and I ask about the little ramekin.
"Oh, I threw that out" He says, and I don't believe him, because he often joshes like that.

But its true Emily. He was in OCD overdrive and decided it was 'sugar that had gone-off'.

So, now he has googled Truffle foraging, and has a little kit and goes off with the dogs in tow- in search of a replacement.

Life can be a little strange around here sometimes Emily, but I expect you have already noticed that.

I await the results of todays Council meeting with the landlord, and have planned my evening.

I have turfed out the lawnmower, the barbeque and some tools from the summer-house.

I have set myself up a table and chair.

I shall purchase a nice bottle of Sancerre. (Yes, Emily, I can see that that rhymes too.)

There I shall sit and ponder the future plans for Mrs Middleton's Shop!

Your ever-loving Grandmother,

GiGi xxxx

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Anniversary

Dearest Emily,

I'm feeling in celebratory mood today-on account of this morning's trip to the tip. The reason for my jollity is two-fold. At long last my weekend loads of rubbish gathered from the back garden (or should I say former building-site) that have tooed and froed in my trusty Moggie, are done with! To celebrate, the chaps at the tip presented me with a lemon sherbet and a broom-stick...

Plus- I have finished my twelve paintings for Open Studios next week- here's the last one.

I've called it The Anniversary, because I painted it in the week of Grumpa and GiGi's eighth wedding anniversary. Two chairs- one for Grumpa and one for me. The hat represents laying it at our new old home, and the book is obviously a part of life hereabouts- as are shawls and summer shoes.

Grumpa hasn't left anything on the chair, because he's off on the Lifeboat of course, and doesn't like leaving anything anywhere. Eight years ago- on the day Andy Murray won the tennis- we had our Wedding blessing at Dimbola, and Wedding Breakfast at the Farringford, spending our honeymoon night in Alfred's room.

Nine years ago this month- I first stumbled over the doorstep and Dimbola, quite unaware of what an impact its one-time resident Julia Margaret Cameron was to have on my life. From in the beginning being delighted to see her links to Bloomsbury (my previous obsesh) to becoming a Trustee at the house, discovering that JMC was the muse for Lewis Carroll's White Queen. To choosing not to go to Paris to work back in the fashion business, and instead moving here to fabulous Freshwater.

What a journey it's been so far! Full of co-incidences and happenstances. Not surprising that Carroll was inspired hereabouts!

Now- we're all about campaigning for Mrs C to be on our currency. Makes sense to me.

A bit of fun for you Em- if JMC were alive today- and in her inimitable obsessive letter writing style- penned a plea to Mark Carney at the Bank of England for her cause to be the nominated £20 noter- it might just go something like this...

My Dear Mr Carney,
I write to ask you to kindly portray my image on the new £20 note.
Since your most gracious request to the public to nominate last month, coupled with my recent 200th birthday, it seems that my mission to ennoble the Art of Photography is finally becoming a common knowledge.
You of course, being of Canadian birth, will be aware of my legacy to Art and Portraiture, as the Getty Museum of America had the foresight to acquire most of my best works.
The Metropolitan Museum in New York also had the grace to support solo show last year, and the latest exhibition of my photographs tours the globe, ending at my dearest V&A this November.
We have not met, of course, owing to the fact that I departed this world a century or so before you were born- however, you will have noticed my portrait of Charles Darwin on the current £10 note. It was a triumph! In 1868, Charles was holidaying next door- he described my likeness of him as his favourite and I must say paid me handsomely for the honour!
In short, Mr Carney, my work changed the course of Photography for ever. I was as you call it today- a Game  Changer!
I, pioneered the 'Close-Up'. I tirelessly worked with the dangerous chemicals and sought technical advice from an old friend of the Mint and myself- Sir John Herschel ( I made a very fine portrait of him ) I sought Artistic Counsel from the very best, my friend G.F.Watts (I made a very fine portrait or two of him also) Dear Mr Henry Cole of the then South Kensington Museum (now known as the V&A) lent me two rooms as a studio, when, back in the 1860's it was not a simple path to follow what is now termed as a 'Career'. I needed to pay attention to my position in the Family and consider myself an 'Amateur'. My dear invalided husband was supposed to be the 'bread-Winner'.
My friends here in the living world have brought you some very kind support for your focus-group.. They have consulted with Academic Experts and provided a Bibilography pertaining to me..They are delivering written nominations collected from my beloved Isle of Wight (to be noted these are from dwellers and tourists) You will also find Dear Mr Carney, that I fulfil all of your criteria. I was born in India- which assists in your diversity area. I have never been considered divisive...
In fact, Mr Carney, it must be remarked that though in my own conceit- in all roundness- I am Perfect Perfection for the Cause!
My regards to your Wife- The Old Lady of Threadneedle St (though I suspect it might be better these days to drop the 'Old' tag)

Yours, Ever,

Julia Margaret Cameron

Again, in my conceit, I should like to add that if you were fortunate enough to meet me living today, I should like to make a portrait of you.
I think you would find that the likeness would electrify and startle you!

Not long now until your next visit here Em- can't wait to see you and Annabel again!

Your ever-loving Grandmother,

GiGi xxx