‘Are You Going To Do All That By Hand?’

Today was spent on garden maintenance, the vast majority of which was carried out by Jackie. She was engaged in planting, weeding, and moving of self-seeded treasures, such as the host of hellebores that crop up everywhere.Jackie carrying herbicideJackie applying herbicide

In preparation for Aaron’s laying of the gravel, she applied megadeath to the various patches of grass, brambles, and dandelions, and other weeds clinging to the back drive. This in the form of diluted DeadFast weedkiller concentrate.

Worm eaten fence post

Some of the fence posts miraculously being held up along this drive are very worm-eaten, giving them an appearance as sculptured as the bark of the birch tree, now in leaf. This particular bright magenta crop of honesty flowers will not appear again for another two years, as the plant is biennial, flowering one year and seeding the next.

Birch leaves and honesty

My major task was mowing the lawn. Well, not exactly mowing, and not exactly a lawn. We have an odd-shaped patch of grass, the main purpose prior to our arrival probably having been for canine convenience. It is a small area bounded by flower beds and paths, and bearing benches, a Victorian chimney plot planter encircled by pretty round stones, a couple of shrubs, and a small stump. A mower cannot reach everything without putting the blades at risk. We have long-handled shears for cutting the edges.Grass cuttingPieris

Now, in my previous life, I have been accustomed to heavy duty Honda petrol mowers that can produce stretches of nice straight lines in which one can take pride if one possesses a large enough lawn.

Last year we used a strimmer to shave this little patch, but that tended to become a little heavy, especially for Jackie, by the end of the job, so we bought a small electric mower more suitable for the task; and the pair of shears. I had not used the machine before today, so my first task was to turn it on. After several failed attempts I managed the synchronisation of button and lever which was required for successful operation. Having established that, I set about the numerous edges with the shears. By the time I was about three quarters of the way through this task I began to consider that I was doing this in the wrong order. I was probably shearing rather more than I needed, and it might be easier to mow first and clip afterwards.

For some reason best known to herself Jackie has the impression that I make life hard for myself by the methods I use to carry out tasks. This is on occasion mentioned when I fill my food plate from one of her casseroles. My plate stays at my place setting and I carry the food across the table from the dish. This requires some not always successful dexterity in ensuring that I do not spill any on the cloth. My lady thinks that it might be more straightforward to take the plate to the dish.

So, there I am, contemplating the grass-cutting, and along comes the head gardener. ‘Sweetheart,’ she trills, ‘are you going to do all that by hand?’. I explained my method, and that, of course, she was right.

The application of the mower went off rather smoothly, although I did occasionally have to extricate myself from the cable which seemed to persist in ensnaring my legs.

Onamental grass

We don’t cut all the grass in the garden, for we have a number of ornamental varieties that are small enough not to require it.

This evening we dined on chicken Kiev, cauliflower cheese, carrots, beans, and mashed potato; all to Jackie’s usual high standard. She drank Gallo Muscato. I didn’t.


Daffodils 5Daffodils 3Daffodil 2

One of the beauties of the vast array of daffodils we have in our garden, is that they come up at different times. As the early arrivals die back, their places are taken by later varieties.

Daffodil 1

Daffodil 3Daffodils 1Daffodils 2Daffodils 4

Some of these bulbs were left in window boxes by our previous owners, some given to us by a couple to whom we gave a bath, and others Jackie has bought in various garden centres.

These spring plants light up the garden in bright sunshine. Jackie, however, is not satisfied with this. She needs the garden to glow in the dark. She has therefore cleaned up and added to last year’s garden lights in her efforts to, all summer long, rival Bartley’s Christmas illuminations. She has marked out all the paths with lanterns on hooks, and hung strings of fairy lights on the arches and shrubs.Lamp 1Lamps 1Lamps 2Small lights 1Garden lights 1Garden lights 2Garden lights 3Garden lights 4

We should now, even though our neighbours may boggle at the sight, be able to make our way around in the dark.

This lunchtime, we received a very welcome surprise visit from Barbara, an on-line Scrabble friend, and her granddaughter Alanta, and arranged to dine with them at Lal Quilla. We did so. Barbara collected us from and returned us to our home. We all enjoyed our meals, and Kingfisher and lemonade was imbibed.

Being a little concerned about what the trampling of Eric the pheasant was doing to the plants under the bird feeders in the back garden, Jackie has transferred two of them to the front. Eric has not yet discovered them, and consequently appears to have terminated his visits. This afternoon she must have relented somewhat because she bought him a potential mate which she placed where he normally walks.Pheasant light

On our return home this evening, as night had fallen, I realised that Eric’s potential companion is in fact another garden illumination.

An Historic London Borough

The gravel for the back drive, and the sand for the rose garden paths, supplied by New Milton Sand and Gravel was delivered early this morning.Sand deliveryGravel delivery

A large tip-up truck delivered six huge bags, each containing rather more than a ton of material for Aaron to work on when he comes next week. The vehicle contained a huge grabber which the delivery man operated from an electronic hand-held instrument. He had manually to hook the loops at each corner over the edges of the grabber rails, but once the containers were landed, his gadget did the work.

Today, I make some demands of my readers.

Later this morning Becky sent me this video from YouTube, and spent a good half hour talking me through the process of transferring it to my post. I couldn’t have done it without her help.

She and I both grew up in Raynes Park, part of the then Borough of Wimbledon, from 1965 subsumed into the London Borough of Merton. I was 9 years old in 1951. Becky came a bit later.
For those of you who have managed to stay with the twelve minutes of the historic film, I give below some of the memories it conjures up for me.
The first feature of interest is the accent of the narrator, now vanished from our media.
The 1930s Town Hall was gutted after the creation of the new boroughs in 1965, and its contemporary furniture, specially made for the building, distributed among other council offices. The splendid edifice is now a Tesco’s supermarket.
I remember the refuse collectors who, in their flat caps, hoisted householders’ heavy metal dustbins onto their shoulders and tipped them into the truck. There were no crushing trucks, and no wheelie bins in those days. What could be burnt was driven to incinerators and the ashes carried off for landfill. As shown in the film, tin cans lay among the more combustible material. As we see, other than previously sorted fabric, paper and cardboard, there was no recycling on today’s scale. Everything that survived the pyre was dumped. Now, just as the sand and gravel man’s task has been made much less arduous, our refuse collection is much easier and safer for the staff who do the job.
Wimbledon Broadway has featured in previous posts. The one highlighted here shows Sir Cyril Black Way. Sir Cyril can be seen in the film.
‘Mugging’ gives one story of Wimbledon Common, and one of our many trips to Cannizaro Park is detailed in the eponymous post.
I played cricket, and even bowls, in Cottenham Park, one of the many vibrant public amenities we had during my youth. This highlighted post will show the difference between children’s swings and slides in our Health-and-Safety-conscious modern era and those of 1951.
‘Pull the chain’ remains a phrase for flushing the loo. In the post-war era, that, as shown in the film, is what was required. There are not many such mechanisms left now, although older houses, such as Michael’s in Croydon still have them, along with ancient wooden seats, in their outside lavatories. In earlier times it was not considered hygienic to have those in the house. Now buyers seek en suite bathrooms in their purchases.
We are shown what happened to your toilet waste, which ended up at the sewage works in Durnsford Road, not far from my first marital home in Ashcombe Road. A large Homebase, where you can buy WC fittings, is now the main building on the site of the works.
The roads were all swept by a man with a cart and a broom. Such workers were a regular sight along our streets, as were the rag-and-bone men’s horses droppings which they had to gather up, if gardeners like our neighbour Mr. Figg didn’t get to them first.
I regularly walked along the banks of the River Wandle, where Ruby played Pooh Sticks,  during our eighteen months in Morden.
I don’t know if the Council Chamber’s operations are still as ceremonial as those shown in the video.
I do hope anyone who has ploughed through that lot will feel sufficiently rewarded.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s classic piquant cauliflower and broccoli cheese served with bacon and chipolatas on a succulent bed of sauteed leeks. She drank Hoegaarden whilst I drank Alexis Lichine cuvee exceptionelle bordeaux superior 2013.
P.S. Here are Jackie’s recollections of the Town Hall:

‘I had many visits to the wonderful old Town Hall, to attend courses for my job. When it was sold to become part of the new shopping centre known as ‘Centre Court’ and Tesco was installed, we all( Council employees) went to Crown House in Morden an enormous curved ‘ Sky scraper’ (approx 13 floors). This became the Merton offices and incorporated the Mayor’s Parlour and the Council Chambers, there they put the beautiful 1930’s Deco furniture from the Wimbledon Town Hall, the Mayoral chair and the wooden panelling shown in the film have also been transferred to the Council Chambers in Crown House. Ironically there was originally a supermarket on the ground floor of Crown house, when the council took it over the supermarket was ousted to make the foyer of the building.’

I Guess I Will Never Know

Becky has pointed out that Jackie’s hand is reflected in the eye of the donkey in ‘Close Encounters Of The Asinine Kind’. I have added a postscript to this effect.


We are doing our best to learn the myriad of bird calls we hear in the garden. When they are all sounding at once it is difficult to separate them. So, when setting out this morning to walk to Roger’s field and back, and hearing a single note ‘chuff’ from a large black bird perched on North Breeze roof, I used my camera as an aid to identification. Zooming in on this distant creature revealed it to be a jackdaw. I have often noticed that this device has a keener eye than we do.

In our garden we now have:







Tulips 2

and more tulips,


yellow versions of which brighten the front garden.

The small front garden did not receive much attention last year, as we concentrated on the larger back one. Jackie did, however, train a rambling rose along the fence. This is now covered in new shoots.

Rose stem with greenflyRose stem with greenfly - Version 2

And greenfly. When I showed the head gardener this crop, she vowed immediate vengeance.


Jackie has also positioned for planting a jasmine, obviously forced into early blooming by the supplier.

Because Christchurch Road, once a gentle country thoroughfare, is now a busy link between Lymington and Christchurch, our refuse bags are collected from the front of the house early in the morning before the traffic builds up. Should we forget to put them out on Wednesday evening, we have the option of placing them on Downton Lane where they are picked up later in the morning.Bin bags

Today, wildlife had got to them before the refuse collectors.

Ragged robin

Ragged robin is beginning to festoon the lane,

Dandelions and primroses

where dandelions converse with primroses.

The preponderance of yellow in the hedgerows is now being challenged by the white of:

Blackthorn 3Blackthorn 1


Cow parsley

cow parsley,


and daisies.

This afternoon, from the end of the back drive, I noticed a woman, a mobile device in each hand, wandering, perplexed, around the pub car park. I asked if she needed any help. She said she was playing a game. Thanks to Louisa, I realised that this was geocaching, described by Wikipedia as:

an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, anywhere in the world.

A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook (with a pen or pencil). The geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it with their established code name. After signing the log, the cache must be placed back exactly where the person found it. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers (Tupperware or similar) or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little financial value, although sometimes they are sentimental. Geocaching shares many aspects with benchmarkingtrigpointingorienteeringtreasure-huntingletterboxing, and waymarking.’

I told the woman I couldn’t be much help with the technicality, but I was sure my granddaughters Jessica and Imogen would have been useful, because they love the pastime.

The Royal Oak telephone number provided one clue which led to the next, being a box marked 5. Now, the bin bags I had photographed earlier belonged to number 5 Downton Lane, almost opposite the car park, but my acquaintance saw no box. She had the option of turning left down the lane, or right in the direction of Hordle Lane. She chose the latter. Later, pondering, as you do, I remembered that my neighbours had twin drives and another set of gates.

Had I missed the opportunity of being a brilliant hero? I had to go and check, and, sure enough, the other, more concealed gates bore a letter box numbered 5. There was, however, no waterproof container to be seen. I guess I will never know.

When Jackie returned this evening from Mr Pink’s with his perfect fish and chips, to which we added pickled onions and mushy peas, she announced that she had pushed the boat out. This did not mean that she had made her own fishing trip, but that, by buying three pieces of cod and one portion of chips, she had spent slightly more than usual. She did this because we have never managed to consume two complete bags of the shop’s plentiful fried potatoes. Jackie drank Hoegaarden whilst I abstained.

The Gate Of India

Cherry blossom

A very straggly flowering cherry tree in the front garden needed Jackie’s heavy pruning last year. It has responded magnificently.Mahonia 1Heuchera

Mahonia 2

A mahonia and more heucheras are blooming, whilst an earlier flowering example of the former that has been allowed to grow into a tree now bears clusters of seeds.

Late this afternoon Jackie drove us to visit our friends Barrie and Vicki who moved to Poole a few months ago. Barrie drove us around the town, pointing out the old town and various new developments, ships in the harbour, the two bridges, the old Customs House, Sunseekers boat builders, and the splendid parks that back onto their building opposite the cricket pitch. Barrie is a wealth of knowledge, not all of which I was able to retain at first hearing, but the journey itself, on a sunny evening was fascinating and enjoyable.

The Gate of India

After this we were treated to a meal at a rightly recommended restaurant, ‘The Gate of India’. The food, service, and ambience, were excellent, and it was interesting that this large establishment, even on a Wednesday evening, was full of diners.

Main courses laid out on our table were chicken buna for Jackie, chicken moglai for Vicki, chom chom chicken for Barrie, and fish naga for me. There was mushroom rice for Jackie and pilau for the rest of us. We shared onion bajis, a naan, and a parata. Jackie and I drank Kingfisher, and our hosts drank diet coke.The Gate of India meal

The empty glasses indicate, as is often the case in restaurants where the food is freshly cooked, that we had finished our first drink before the food arrived. That was not a problem. The only tardiness they showed was in presenting the bill. We all enjoyed our meals.

Close Encounters Of The Asinine Kind

Although The Needles lighthouse fog warning could still be heard, last night’s mist eventually cleared from Downton to reveal a splendid warm and sunny day, on the morning of which my garden meandering revealed:


a forsythia,


and, now budding, the azalea transported from Sutherland Place.

Cherry blossom

Cherry blossom can now me seen emerging from the North Breeze brambles,

Greenhouse and brambles 1Greenhouse and brambles 2

which are choking that abandoned garden’s greenhouse,

and, ‘imitating the action of the [triffids]’, again sending their tentacles across our makeshift fence. This afternoon I cut them back.

Ponies on greenPony 1StreamStream and ice cream van

This afternoon Jackie drove us around the North of the forest. On this balmy day we knew we would see the usual animals wandering on the roads and through the villages. Ponies chomped grass on the green and by the stream at Ibsley where an ice cream van was doing a good trade. A boy paddled in the water sucking on his ice cream while his parents sat on a rock eating theirs. I didn’t think it politic to photograph them. This area had been waterlogged when we brought Flo there for a photo session last year.Pony 2

Pony 3

On the banks of the stream the dappled sunlight enhanced the strawberry ripple of a grey pony, and another looked as if its dye had run into the gently flowing ruddied water.Donkey on roadDonkey 2Donkey rear view

Donkeys abounded in North Gorley. One, sleepily, lay in the road for a good hour or so, only lifting its head when a car sped past. It pricked up its long ears and raised its nose quite suddenly, but dropped it slowly to the ground once the danger was past. It seemed to know exactly how far to let it fall before coming to rest. At no time did it move the rest of its body, any more than did the grey/white one on the grass outside The Royal Oak pub. These two animals were treating their different heated surfaces as electric blankets.Pheasants on roof

Perched on top of the thatch of Cobweb Cottage in Hyde, were two pheasants. Jackie thought there would be no chance of their flying away at the sight of the camera, so I might get a decent shot in. Perhaps the person who fitted the weather vane was a cricket fan.

It was on the approach to this village that encounters with the fauna became, to varying degrees, disconcerting. Having been attracted by the long shadows cast by the donkeys as they grazed beneath the trees, I emerged from the car, camera at the ready. But they were onto me. Almost literally. One in particular advanced at a steady, silent pace, merging its shadow into mine. Backing away didn’t help, so I settled forDonkey 1

another grazing,

Donkeys necking

and two of its companions necking.

I gave up and returned to the car. No sooner had I sat in the passenger seat and closed the door than my more attentive acquaintance pushed its head through the open window, poised its muzzle inches from my crotched started moving it up and down. I felt particularly uneasy, not to say queasy, until I realised that my persistent suitor was scratching its neck on the window frame. That is what caused the rhythmic movement and the flaring of the nostrils. There was nothing for it but to use it as a photo opportunity.

Donkey's eye 1Donkey's eye 2

Donkey's eye 3 - Version 2

When Jackie asked me if I had taken any shots that showed the animal in the context of having penetrated into the car, I replied that I couldn’t get far enough away to have anything in the frame but the asses head. It was like photographing Shakespeare’s Bottom from centre stage.

I am sure that the donkeys themselves are harmless. But what they carry is not. These creatures bear the ticks that give humans Lyme disease  when they bite them. A visit to Google will provide details of this unpleasant affliction. I did rather hope that my amorous friend wasn’t dislodging its ticks into our car.

This evening Jackie and I dined on her superb sausage casserole, mashed potato, cauliflower and broccoli. I finished the rioja and my lady abstained.

P.S. Becky has pointed out that three of Jackie’s fingers on the steering wheel are reflected in the donkey’s eye.

A Sea Mist

Before dinner yesterday I had optimistically left stubborn logs from a small bonfire smouldering in the trusty old rusty wheelbarrow. Today they had largely been reduced to ashes that, when cooled, will be added to the compost, along with the weeds I am about to mention.

Jackie has been doing a good job of weeding and path-clearing for the last week of so. This afternoon I made a minor contribution by starting on the Gallium aparine, otherwise known, among other things, as ‘sticky Willy’.Gallium aparine

This plant will trail anywhere, and climb the tallest shrubs and smaller trees until it reaches the sunlight it needs for blooming and seeding. It is essential to eradicate it before the flowers appear and the seeds are dropped. If left to mature the slender taproots can become quite bulbous. The hairy stems are apparently, if cooked, edible. Soph, of agentsoffield.wordpress.com, recently posted ‘A Nettle Odyssey’, contemplating cooking stinging nettles. I wonder if she has done the same with this particular Gallium. Bitter cressGallium aparine flowersYou wouldn’t eat it raw because the tiny hooks on them act like velcro, from which another of its names derives.  Last year we came to this task far too late and are already reaping the dubious rewards. The small white blooms, yet to appear, are easily confused with those of the bitter cress (pictured on the left), another weed that is already adding sections of not unpleasant carpet to our beds. I first came across the velcro plant in the garden of Lindum House in Newark, where it was equally prolific, and where I became familiar with the roots mentioned above.

Somewhat later, swathes of smoke bustled slowly across the garden, seemingly from someone else’s bonfire. But precipitation was in the air. It appeared to be raining, and the temperature dropped. I believe we were experiencing  what meteorologists term haar, that is a cold sea fog usually found on the East coast of England or Scotland, occuring when warmer, damper, air moves over the relatively cooler North Sea, causing the moisture in the air to condense. All right, we are neither on the East coast nor anywhere near the North Sea, but I’ve only ever been able to use the word before when setting cryptic crosswords, so I am sure you will allow me a certain literary licence.Tree in sea mist 1Tree in sea mist  2Tree in sea mist  3Tree in sea mist 4

Flo photographed the gradual disappearance of the tree across the road from her bedroom window.

This evening we all dined together before Becky, Flo, and Ian returned home to Emsworth. The meal was Jackie’s delicious sausage casserole; succulent cauliflower and broccoli cheese; and crisp carrots and green beans. I drank Castillo San Lorenzo rioja reserva 2009; Jackie drank Hoegaarden; Ian, Cobra, and Becky rosé.