The Water Spire

This morning I walked along Hordle Lane, turning left into Stopples Lane. I had hoped to walk across the fields and woods to Peter’s Farm, but could not find my way through. In the spring, I must have traversed a gap in the hedge which is now overgrown. Today, I followed the fenced off wood until I reached the houses, then retraced my steps.

Water spireBurst valveJust before the paddock I heard, then saw, a spire of water, casting a rainbow, shooting straight up into the tree above. Upon investigation, during which I was liberally sprinkled, I noticed that a valve had, perhaps deliberately, become disconnected. Yeatton cottageI knocked at the door of Yeatton Cottage and alerted a resident who undertook to contact the water board. This young woman told me that the large horses did not belong to her and her husband, Horse camouflagedalthough the field and a Shetland pony did. One of the horses, sheltering under an oak, was well camouflaged.

I twice met a jogger, and gave her a running tip, for which she was grateful.

Food to go debrisKFC boxThe verges on both sides of Hordle Lane are littered with debris from food to go. Why, I often wonder, do people come to such a beautiful spot and chuck their rubbish out of their car windows?

Impatiens in forestTree sectionImpatiens grew in the wood. Perhaps someone had dumped their garden refuse into this area, with a much more pleasing result. A natural insect hotel created by the section of a dead tree was open for guests.

Concrete slabSoon after this I began the last push in preparing the rose garden. This involved the two of us transplanting a straggly rosemary bush and a cluster of crocosmia. Digging over the soil is likely to take some considerable time. The small area I worked on today, especially that which had been covered by paving for so many years, had the consistency of iron, and contained copious amounts of couch grass and its sinuous trailing roots. I unearthed another slab of concrete and a few more bricks. Just as I was thinking that I would probably find more before the job was done, I discovered another row of the concrete embedded on its side. Having been unable to shift even the first slab, in the absence of my  Jack Russell substitute, and as Jackie was calling me in to share a six-egg omelette, stuffed with onions and mushrooms, for a late lunch, I decided to call it a day. She said there was no rush to complete this task which could be done ‘at [my] leisure – if that’s the right word to use’.

This afternoon we were visited by Sam, The Lady Plumber, who came to look at the work needed on our guest bathroom before Louisa, Errol, Jessica, and Imogen come for the weekend. Sam(antha) was friendly, quick, and efficient. Maybe she could have fixed this morning’s valve. She will do our work on Thursday.

This evening I lit and tended a bonfire. Many more will be required before the produce of four months of sawing, pruning and clipping has been burnt.

Jackie’s luscious chicken curry and savoury rice was what we enjoyed for dinner. It was followed by lemon and lime merangue pie and evap in her case, and lemon drizzle cake and custard in mine. I finished the chianti, and she drank some Hoegaarden.

A Summer For Insects

This morning, following the advice Mike gave me yesterday, we went in search of The Old House. Google informed us that this was in Lymington Road in Milford on Sea. It has, of course, quite a different postcode. Jackie drove us up and down this road, and we couldn’t find it. The most likely candidate had a lovely old brick wall, but the house looked a little different from the photograph that had appeared in Country Life, and was one of the few grand houses in this road that did not bear a name. Having seen an advertisement for an antiques fair at the Community Centre, Jackie suggested she left me to search on foot and meet her at the fair. That seemed a good plan.

South Lawn hotelI wandered into South Lawn Hotel to see if I could find anyone who knew the house. The very helpful staff printed out Google’s directions. These looked promising until they told me to turn left into Church Hill. Church Hill was on the right. It did not cross Lymington Road. So I turned right. The directions took me to River Gardens, actually opposite the Community Centre. The Old House was not there.

Community CentreI went into the Centre to see whether anyone knew it. Peter who was on the door, didn’t know the property. I had no money, so couldn’t pay the £1 entrance fee. He let me in, so I could update Jackie with lack of progress. No-one could be found who could direct me. Peter suggested I might try the newsagent who may deliver papers there. I did. They didn’t. Peter and ChrisBack at the Community Centre, Peter introduced me to Chris, who did know the house, and directed me to what had been the most likely candidate. So, back up the hill I trotted.

Having reached my goal, a wonderful 18th Century building,The Old House I met Mrs Libby Paling, who was very helpful. She had, of course, been redirecting my bank statements from the stubborn MyBarclays, but now said she would speak to her postman. Mike had told me it was normal practice for postpersons to hand any letters carrying postcodes not on their rounds that found their way into their bundles,  to the correct person, but Libby’s postman didn’t do this.

Jackie met me at the top of Church Hill and drove us home.

This afternoon we cut the grass. Jackie’s chosen method was a close manicure with a pair of scissors. I used a pair of rusty but serviceable sheers and a strimmer.

Mum and ElizabethMumMum and Elizabeth came for tea and stayed for dinner. We sat on the patio for a while, then did the tour of the garden. A multitude of insects shared our promenade. Most were welcome. That did not extend to the mosquitos. The ice plants attracted different kinds of bee:Wasp on ice plantBee on ice plant

A very small cricket sat on a cosmos:Cricket on cosmos

A spider lay in wait for victims of its web that clung to a verbena bonarensis:Spider on verbena bonarensis

and a cabbage white butterfly settled momentarily on another:Cabbage white on verbena bonarensis

A shield bug took preference over a hoverfly that stayed in the background on the clematisSheild bug and hoverfly on clematis Hagley's hybrid Hagley’s hybrid,

and a tiny fly descended into a colchicum (do zoom this one):Fly in colchicum

Before dinner we sat in the kitchen and opened the skylight. This disturbed a false widow spider that dropped onto my, fortunately still empty, plate. I decanted the arachnid into the garden and washed the dish.

On the clean plate I enjoyed our dinner of exquisite sausage casserole; mashed potato; and crisp broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and cabbage; followed by a choice of blackberry and apple crumble, lemon and lime merangue pie, or lemon drizzle cake. Elizabeth and I drank more of the chianti and Jackie almost finished the lambrusco.

Tony and Anne, Trevor and Jan

Clearance of the future rose garden continues apace. Yesterday Jackie uprooted several unproductive fruit bushes, and this morning I removed the last of the box hedges and a photinia that had been well rooted for a few years. This latter plant required the use of a grubber axe. It had to come out because it has the potential to grow into a huge tree. There is one in the jungle garden next door which is so high that we get the benefit of it.

After this, I took my now customary route on foot to Milford on Sea, taking a diversion through a nature reserve on the way back. Having passed through Shorefield, I met Mike, the postman, who confirmed that he was indeed more comfortable in the front garden next door, photographed yesterday. He was also very helpful about the problem I have been having with misdirected mail being delivered to The Old House, Lymington Road. This is yet another difficulty  with MyBarclays, who hold my French bank account. They will only accept proof of address from my New Forest Council Tax bill. This gives our address as Lymington Road, rather than Christchurch Road. I am engaged in a frustrating exchange of e-mails with the bank. Until this is resolved, Mike suggested I might explain the problem to the residents of The Old House, which is not on his round, so they may readdress my statements.Yacht on Solent

The Solent is now calm enough for leisure yachting. Dog walkersTony and AnnePeople were walking babies in buggies, and sometimes frisky dogs on foot. From the cliff top Tony pointed out the Isle of Wight to his wife Anne. We conversed about my photograph and the general state of the cliffs.Isle of Wight and The Needles through firs I have mentioned before, the superb view The Beach House has of the island and its lighthouse. Today I shot it through their mature conifers.

On the way back out of Milford on Sea there is a footpath on the right. I have speculated about where it might lead, but had not had the confidence to try it before. TrevorToday, however, Jan on footpathFootpath and streamI noticed Trevor enjoying a cigarette as he basked on a bench in the sunshine. Crossing a footbridge over a stream, I asked him where the path led. He directed me along it, telling me how I could pick up the coast road. As I walked back over the bridge, an attractive woman came into view. This was Jan, who looks after the administration of the Community Centre cafe. She is a blues fan and particularly likes The Blues Band, especially Paul Jones and Tom McGuiness. This discovery enlivened our conversation somewhat.

Crossing a road along the footpath I entered the Nature Reserve through which it ran, leaving it on a slope up to Woodland Way on the left. This led to Delaware Road, and thence the cliff top. CyclamenThe path, beside which cyclamen blooms among dandelions, does extend further, and one day I may explore it more.

Tonight we dined at our old haunt, The Family House Chinese restaurant in Totton. We ate our favourite set meal, and both drank T’Sing Tao beer.The Family House proprietor Like many Asian restaurants they juggle, very successfully, with serving diners and taking down takeaway orders.

The Clearances

It was too dark when I arrived home yesterday to see what had happened in the front garden next door. A team had spent the day clearing the jungle, including shaping the lonicera hedge that was invading the narrow pedestrian footpath at the front. Jackie made the acquaintance of the owners, whose story is theirs to tell. Front garden next doorThis photograph should be compared with that taken on the 8th. Mike, the postman, will no longer have to take care of his be-shorted legs when negotiating brambles.

This morning, continuing the work on the future rose garden, I cleared away the furthermost box hedge. Since it was bordered by bricks, which are easier to remove than Box hedgeconcrete slabs, this task was less back-breaking than the one I carried out two days ago. It was, however, slightly complicated by the fact that the posts of a pergola stood amongst it. Another unproductive shallow-rooted apple tree also had to be removed. Apple tree prunedThis afternoon, together, we reduced to a manageable level the one apple tree that stands a chance.

I printed up some pictures of Scooby, who had reminded our friend Sheila of her own, Maize field clearedlate, Jack Russell, Cressie, and walked down to the Shorefield post box and back to send them to her. Roger Cobb and his team had finished harvesting the forage maize crop.

Late this afternoon I received confirmation from Mark Vick who has supervised the process on my behalf, that almost everything belonging to the people who were living in my house has been removed today. Exceptions are the contents of the cellar and an additional freezer that is in the kitchen. This is not mine, and I was unaware that it had been connected and filled with food. It was lined up against a wall with other white goods, and couldn’t be accessed without moving the table. It is now crawling with maggots because I turned off the electricity and dumped the huge amount of food that filled my own large fridge freezer. Mark has turned the power back on to freeze down the contents. All these items will be removed next week.

Particularly in the minds of our friends in Ireland and Scotland, ‘The Clearances’, have an historical meaning over which resentment is still felt today. They represent sorry periods in the history of the United Kingdom which, depending on the outcome of the impending Scottish referendum, may or may not soon suffer an irrevocable rift. It was people who were being cleared from their homes, for similar and different purposes in each case.

In 1649, Oliver Cromwell set sail for Ireland from Milford Haven, determined to bring that country firmly under English rule. Having defeated the Irish armies, he forcibly transported almost three quarters of the population of Ulster, Leinster, and Munster to the fourth and poorest province of Connaught in the west. All classes of society were victims of this ‘ethnic cleansing’. Many thousands who resisted were sent to Virginia and the West Indies.

The Highland Clearances in Scotland, of the mid-18th and early 19th centuries was an attempt to eradicate the Clan and Highland way of life, escalated after the Jacobite defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, by the infamous, brutal, Duke of Cumberland. Tens of thousands of men, women, and children were evicted from their homes to make way for large-scale sheep farming. One difference in this case was that, although mass emigration resulted, it was not forced transportation. New towns sprang up, but many resorted to the cities, and in 1792, known as the ‘Year of the Sheep’, thousands took ship to make new homes in America, Canada, New Zealand, or Australia.

Tonight’s dinner consisted of sublime sausage casserole, swede and potato mash, mange tout, broccoli and cauliflower, followed by ace apple and blackberry crumble. Jackie drank more of the lambrusco. My choice was Via di Cavallo chianti 2013.

Food To Go

Today I travelled by my usual routes to Norman’s and to Carol’s in London. After Jackie delivered me to New Milton Station I noticed this warning of the possible consequences of climbing into the waste container outside the ticket office:Do Not Climb Into This Container

Whilst on the run in the 1994 film ‘Guet-apens (The Getaway)’ which I watched in Sigoules a couple of years ago, Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger did just that. They were tipped into a garbage truck and clambered to the back as they watched the crusher squashing everything in its path as it moved towards them. This had all the tension of Edgar Allan Poe’s story ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’. It was too early in the thriller for the desperate pair to meet their end there, so, as if on a helter-skelter, when the vehicle dumped its load, they careered into the rusting and rotting heap of municipal refuse before continuing on their way.

On the train to Waterloo, joining in a conversation about the changes in house prices since the 1960s, I enjoyed the company of two women who turned out to be retired nurses trained at the old Charing Cross Hospital in the late1950s. This building, they told me, is now a police station. They, who were travelling to an annual reunion with their contemporaries, knew my old Westminster patch well. This broadened our discussion somewhat.

For lunch, Norman provided Spanish paella, green beans from I don’t know where, German apple strudel, English custard, and a fine bottle of Italian nebbiola 2010.

On the seat beside me on the Metropolitan Line train from Preston Road lay someone’s discarded fish and chip wrappers. An Asian boy, plugged into a mobile device, removed them, placed them on the floor, sat down, and proceeded to finish his own chicken and chips taken from a cardboard container that, bones and all, he left behind on his departure. There was once an advertisement in the carriages advising diners that this practice was unpleasant for both the staff and other passengers. Perhaps London Underground Limited have now given up.Rickshaw cyclist

Parked alongside Westminster Underground station, surrounded by passers by, many using mobile phones, one of the cycling rickshaw men who are often waiting there for customers consumed a snack and put his feet up.

Finally, the woman opposite me in the train home from Waterloo tucked into a Pret a Manger salad.

 

Carnival

This morning I walked a route I had first discovered on 5th of April. TrucksI followed a large truck along  the footpath to the right of Downton Lane. This soon joined two others between the maize fields, the nearest of which was now stubble. I wandered along to the last vehicle and engaged in an entertaining and informative discussion with farmer Roger Cobb. Derrick's jogging bottomsHis seemed a remarkably apt name for a maize grower.

I knew we would get on well when he at first donned a pair of dark glasses because, he said, my pink jogging bottoms were dazzling him. When I told him I had bought them in a sale during my running days, he said he wasn’t surprised. Roger, who declined to be photographed, explained that this was forage maize which was harvested earlier than that for human Harvesting maize 1Harvesting maize 2consumption. It was shredded, compacted, and fed to cattle. Maize debrisA few scattered cobs lay beside the stubble. The jolly farmer also confirmed that the dead crow was, indeed, a deterrent. Apparently these birds are very partial to maize.

PheasantOn the New Milton bus route I met and conversed with a woman who was training to walk, with her granddaughter, a half marathon in London in aid of cancer research. She said she would never try this dicey road again. I was able to guide her the rest of the way, telling her there would be a footpath beyond the bottom of Downton Lane.

There was much evidence of mole activity, and the bluebells in the wood have now made way for bracken, amidst which pheasants scuttled, rustling fallen leaves.

Later, I began the task of taking out the box hedges from the future rose garden. I found them to be bordered by yet more heavy concrete slabs which I dug out and added to the pile by the shed. A liberal supply of hard core infiltrated the soil, and the roots proved to be very stubborn. I settled for removing the centre stretch, and a shallow rooted apple tree that hadn’t really made it through the rubble, yet managed to produce four fruit. Whilst I was engaged in this, Jackie shopped in Lidl, where she bought a dozen more cyclamen, the cost of which worked out at 74p. each.

A recently deceased rat lay on its back beside the compost heap, to which, gingerly grasping the tip of its tail, I added it. Unscarred, the large rodent must have seen off Bev and John’s marauding cat which is nevertheless an excellent mouser. If so, perhaps the excitement was too much for it.

Soon after this year’s Notting Hill Carnival throughout the three days of August Bank Holiday weekend, my friend Alex Schneideman posted in his journal, under the title ‘Has Carnival Had Its Day?’, photographs including a row of young men using boarded up shop fronts as a urinal, and another of a group of anxious looking police personnel. He invited discussion. This was the comment I posted this afternoon:

‘When I lived in Sutherland Place until just four years ago it was our gardens that were used as public conveniences, but Westminster council did a good clear up job. I thought the carnival had had its day then, largely because there were far too many people crowded into the small locality. If I left my flat and went through barriers to the shops in Westbourne Grove, I had to prove where I lived to get back again. The police then had much happier expressions than those anxious ones you photographed, Alex.  Most of the residents of our street disappeared for the whole holiday weekend. What was to admire was the efforts that went into the marvellous floats, although the volume of the music was literally painful to the ears’. Reports on this year’s event were very different to that I experienced in 2008 when, by the skin of my teeth, I produced one of my favourite sets of images.

RocksSeaweed on rocksSpray on rocksBefore dinner this evening, Jackie drove us down to Milford on Sea where we wandered among the green-haired rocks smoothed by the waves of The Solent down the ages. Today these sometimes violent bodies of water lapped gently at the glinting sun-drying boulders strewn about the beach.

Even by her standards, Jackie excelled herself with tonight’s sausage casserole. This delicious meal was made from three different varieties of Ferndene bangers, and a gammon steak from Tesco. It was served with potato and swede mash, mange touts, carrots and cabbage; and followed by a tangy lemon and lime meringue pie. Jackie drank lambrusco, whilst my choice was Hatherwood Golden Goose beer.

The Bhagavad Gita

8.9.14

I found my main gardening task today really tough. Having thought I had taken up all the concrete slabs from the former kitchen garden, I discovered another path of them. They were bounded by bricks. Paving pileAll these have now enhanced the paving pile, leaving me wringing wet. The latest heavy blocks are those that look darkest in the photograph.

After this, I dragged myself to the Shorefield post box and back, then settled down in a chair to read. Interrupted only by a robotic telephone call trying to sell us a new boiler, I finished that Indian classic ‘The Baghavad Gita’. Described by Jackie’s former work colleague as a ‘book on the Soul, Karma, and Reincarnation’ this dramatic piece takes the form of a dialogue between Krishna and the warrior Arjuna, with Sanjaya taking the role of the classical Chorus. Originally written in ancient Sanskrit it is an interlude in the much longer epic, Mahabharata.

Now, I had a choice. I could attempt Jackie’s tome, containing the original text and copious commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, or I could confine myself to my Folio Society edition with a brief introduction by Amit Chaudhuri. I settled for the latter.

Relying on the doctrine of reincarnation, the god attempts to convince the warrior that it is his duty to kill friends and relatives facing him on the battlefield because their spirits will not die and they will have rebirths. The book is, of course, about much more than this, being a guide to the achievement of inner peace. Much of it does make sense to me, but the killing theory seems to be rather too easy a justification. It beats me how that can bring about inner peace.Bhagavad Gita illustrationsBhagavad Gita illustration

The scholarly edition is illustrated by sumptuous realist paintings and photographs, whilst the other is liberally strewn with more imaginative suggestions from the hand of Anna Bhushan. The double spread I have chosen from the first book relates to the doubt of Arjuna and to the reincarnation philosophy. Zooming will make the text clearer.

Pruned roseWhilst I was thus recuperating, Jackie continued her autumn pruning and clearing. Later on, I helped by transporting unwanted foliage to the compost heap and the combustible piles.

Jackie’s delicious chicken curry and savoury rice amply sufficed for our dinner, with which I drank Louis de Camponac cabernet sauvignon 2012. Jackie had already consumed her Hoegaarden when we relaxed in our garden as the sun went down.

Later, I began reading ‘The War of the end of the World’ by Mario Vargas Llosa.