Last week I casually mentioned in my blog that when I ascend (or descend) into a more ethereal existence I'd like a wooden bench erected along my favourite stretch of the riverbank in Henley. Although this photograph is a bit premature it does show the sort of bench I mean. Read the inscription on the bench
Pootle, my young blogging friend, and I walked along the towpath last Monday and she not only took the picture above, but manipulated the photograph by changing the original wording on the back of the seat. She did it in Photoshop (something I’m incapable of doing!) The new wording was her idea, and although I don’t make a habit of referring to ‘bottoms’ in this way, I will treat you to a pencil drawing of a ‘derriere’ I did a few months ago!
This particular bench on the towpath gives a direct view over the river towards my flat. You can see it in the distance in the photograph below. Our six flats were built on the foundations of the old Marsh Mill. It was a flourmill and only ceased functioning about 50 years ago. I’ll also add a black and white photograph of the mill taken from almost exactly the same spot on the towpath where the bench resides.
Now that I’m able to drive again I’ve been around and about a bit. My first venture out was to Debbie and Paul’s riverside party last Saturday evening. Just the sort of evening I like most. About twenty or so neighbours and friends were there. Some came by boat and all enjoyed the balmy evening as we supped our Pimms and watched the boats go by and the sun go down.
On Monday evening I tried the ‘Curry Leaf’ Indian Restaurant in Wargrave Village. Not only was the food superb (their sizzling King prawns my favourite) the whole place was spotless with gleaming white tablecloths and starched napkins, and – once we made ourselves understood – immaculate service.
On Thursday morning I drove to Twyford Station to pick up an old Far Eastern colleague I hadn’t seen for nearly 30 years. As I had time to spare I had a chat with Norman, the Station Master.
He features in the painting I’m currently working on, and I asked him if he minded me not including the name-plate he normally wears on his tie as my picture depicts a turn-of-the-century railway platform and I didn’t want to mix ‘eras’ too much. He agreed. My colleague, Malcolm Glenn, was now white-haired (as I am) but we had a good old chinwag at Phyllis Court over a nice lunch. As we’d shared many exciting – and sometimes hair-raising – experiences in Bangkok and Hong Kong it was great to reminisce once again. It takes years off you. Malcolm now lives in Santa Fe in the USA, and as his children are scattered all over the world, he was visiting his eldest son in London for a few days.
Last Wednesday Jilly had invited Paul, Debbie and me to dinner. She lives in a really characterful cottage right by the river in the middle of Henley. Called ‘Wattle Cottage’ it’s an absolute delight – full of the most interesting paintings and artefacts. Jilly always remembers my favourite tipple – Brandy and ginger ale- and has perfected the exact relevant proportions. Paul and Debbie have just become members of Phyllis Court, and being a rather elegant club, when I mentioned that I’d been playing snooker with Robert Cramner-Brown, the President of the club’s snooker section, Paul said “Oh my God, have we got to be hyphenated now to be fully accepted?” What about Daniels-McGee?
I’m quite impressed with our National Health Service - having never experienced it first-hand in the past. The Service is often criticised, but I’ve found it very good. The ward in the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading where I spent a week last month, was scrupulously clean, and all the nurses, doctors and ancillary staff were very helpful, kind and hard-working. Today I had my wound dressed in our little Townlands Hospital (long may it function) and yesterday at the surgery. As I am able to drive again the district nurses don’t need to come to me every morning now. I’m also given a twice-daily bottle of ‘Ensure Plus’ – a protein drink – all free of charge on the National Health.
RG9 wrote on my blog last week about Thomas and Humphrey Gainsborough. As Thomas Gainsborough is one of my favourite painters - his expertise in combining landscape with portraits is second to none in my opinion - I knew of the brothers’ connection to Wargrave and Henley, and did you know that Humphrey also invented the drill plough, and designed the lock, weir and footbridge at Marsh Lock? A blue plaque in Gainsborough’s honour can be found on the gates of the Manse next to Christ Church United Reform Church in Henley.