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Below Bill Ayling shares with you some of the things that come to mind as he walks his dog Fudge around Purley on Thames

January 2018

Christmas Time

If there is an element of Christmas in these articles it is because I am writing them on Christmas Eve and nostalgia plays an important part in my scribing.


In Boult’s Meadow there once stood a large oak tree. On the tree large bunches of mistletoe grew, they were about fifteen feet above the ground, and obviously very difficult to get at. The mistletoe was consequently prized by local youngsters who .went to great lengths to clamber up the tree and cut away bunches of the evergreen with its delicate white berries.

In the summer Tim Metcalfe’s cattle used to stand beneath the tree and enjoy its shade on a hot day. Principal among the cattle was a massive black bull named Valentine. He used to stand beneath the oak tree with his bovine harem around him slowly, ruminatively chewing the cud.

However both the oak tree and Valentine has gone, gone too is the mistletoe. The oak tree was blown down in the October gales of about four years ago. It is now just a large wooden trunk lying on the field. It does however have some use for it is ideal for sitting down on. This is necessary for to rest the legs after chasing Fudge who has developed the habit of running across the meadow to the far side, where the garden fences border the pasture.

There is still plenty of mistletoe, not, alas, within reach, but on the other side of the river, where it hangs  in large green bunches high up in the branches.  If you stand by the kissing gate at the end of River Gardens and look across to the other side of the Thames you will see the enormous circular clusters hanging high up on the top of the trees. Recently Eileen and I counted at least fourteen round gatherings. They are too high up and too far away to be gathered, even with a long ladder. It is hard to even see them without the aid of a pair of binoculars.

Christmas Bells and Decorations

Eileen has found a whole string of silver and golden bells in a box which contained last year’s festive garlands. They are small and delicate, and look very pretty. She has been busy stringing them over the various picture frames hanging from the walls in the lounge. I caught her balancing on one leg while standing on the settee putting the bells in their place, literally caught her. I am all for Christmas decorations, but I wonder how many other people go to such lengths to brighten the lounge. We always try to have some paper chains and lights at Christmas, it does brighten up the room in these long, dark days.

I have recently been in touch with Hugh Pryor, brother of Syb. He has very kindly sent me a copy of his latest thriller “Touch and Go” it is a wonderful book, well written and very exciting. In his letter to me he writes:

“In the back of my mind, I was not sitting in an aircraft over a mine-field in the Libyan Desert, on an alcohol-free Christmas Eve… I was actually sitting by a log fire at Syb’s House, with glittering Christmas decorations and a Large Glen Livet Whisky, with the prospect of a frosty Dog-Walk up to Hardwick before devouring a classic ‘Christmas Lunch’, with all the ‘trimmings’.

Of course that was just a dream, for many years, but the Thames Valley has always been my ‘Comfort.”

The wonderful way Hugh writes you can almost taste the whisky, see and feel the heat from the crackling log fire and share his anticipation of a frosty walk along the Thames Path.


The trees around the house were white with frost. The branches rimmed against the blue sky, but it was scrape, scrape, scrape on the car windscreen, for an early morning visit to the doctors. Fortunately Eileen came out and lent a hand – in truth she took over the scraping. The garden did look pretty, but then, so it did with the snow we had couple of week ago. There is a possibility of more snow to come later in this week. I like the snow from the comfort of the lounge with the central heating on and the imitation log fire flickering in the hearth, it looks beautiful, but walking in the snow these days can be hazardous for elderly people.

Fudge obviously enjoyed her romp in the snow. When we let her out for her early morning stroll there was quite a lot of snow lying on the grass. She cautiously approached it, smelt it, tasted it, realised the taste was rather pleasant then galloped about the lawn and surrounds grabbing mouthfuls of the good quality white stuff. When she had had sufficient she reluctantly came back to her basket in the lounge and promptly fell asleep – but not until she had eaten her breakfast.


We have had a new bathroom and kitchen installed recently and the fitters have done a very good job. Eileen is delighted with it and even I must admit that there is a great improvement. Unfortunately the toilet seats did not arrive with the new toilets, and these cold mornings have made a visit to the bathroom rather chilly, particular to somebody who likes his comfort.

Ceiling collapse

Everything looks fine, or did, until the ceiling in the kitchen collapsed – they do say these things are sent to try us.

Fused Fire

The second mishap was when I fused the electric fire.

Printer Fails

The third misfortune was when the printer stopped working, and I particularly needed it for printing out my third “Mapledurham Island” story for corrections.

All’s Well that ends Well!

It is said these things come in threes! But this time I was lucky. The decorators have repaired the kitchen ceiling, so that it looks as good as new. Tony has repaired the fire – simple, to him, difficult to me – with the aid of knowledge and a new fuse, and Graham has spent two hours getting the new printer to work.

It’s nice to have friends!

Bill Ayling