A Bit Of A Bummer

Continuous rain fell today, but the temperature was still very warm.

Jackie drove me to and from New Milton for the London train and lunch with Wolf and Luci. From Waterloo I took the Northern Line tube to Clapham Common and walked to our friends’ home in Hambalt Road, reversing the process after stimulating conversation and an excellent lunch prepared by Luci. We enjoyed a tasty chicken casserole, new potatoes, and a tangy melange of some six or seven flavoursome vegetables. Luci’s seasonal pumpkin pie perked up with black cherries. She and I drank a very good Claret from 2012. Wolf, as always, preferred apple juice.

With more than an hour left of the outward journey, a gentleman preparing to sit on the opposite side of the corridor from me, had some difficulty removing his outer clothing. This necessitated his wriggling his rear end in my direction in a rather ungainly fashion. The aisles on these trains are very narrow. It was only after he had managed to place part of the said stern on his seat that I realised the young man was not. In fact he was so fat that one leg was permanently planted in the gangway. When people squeezed past, it was I who, for self preservation, needed to lurch to my right in order to avoid contact with various anatomical parts, depending on the height and contours of the individuals concerned, and whether their fronts or backs were presented to me. The bunch of keys attached to the guard’s belt could have put my eye out. A bit of a bummer, really.

Wine and charcuterie

I have mentioned before how most public conveniences outside central London are no longer kept open. As I left Clapham Common underground station, I noticed that the railings for the lavatories attached to the building were unbolted and open. For a moment I had thought I may be able to avail myself of the facilities. Before descending the steps I noticed the chairs half way down, the board advertising Live Music, and, more importantly, what WC now stands for. If you care to click on the image you will also see it. This was also rather disappointing. I can only hope that some of the original closets have been retained for the use of current customers.

Clapham Common

The street behind the station, beyond the grass bank at the edge of the common, is also more up-market than it once was. I wonder what the generations of crows have made of the changes.

The Unidentified Fir Bed

I began the day by watching a recording of the England v. Australia match in the Rugby World Cup. In case there is any rugby fan in either hemisphere who is yet to watch it, I will say no more.

Jackie working on Unidentified Fir bed

Encouraged by yet another warm, sunny, day, Jackie began work on clearing, and settling down for winter, the bed between the Heligan and Phantom Paths. We will call it The Unidentified Fir Bed, in honour of the large evergreen that enhances it. My contribution was to gather up and shift the debris to the respective compost and combustible heaps; to dig out a tree peony that encroached upon the Heligan Path; and to rake up fallen leaves from the gravel.

Unidentified Fir Bed 1Unidentified Fir Bed 2

In addition to releasing a number of choked plants that had not seen the light of day for a year or two, Jackie discovered another row of large rocks, and a length of perished buried hose from an ancient irrigation system.

Hose in Unidentified Fir Bed

Unidentified Fir Bed 3

This afternoon, deciding to dig over the exposed ground, she found much rubble therein. I, oblivious of this added difficulty, watched TV rugby matches between Argentina and Tonga, and between Ireland and Italy.

Owl on stump

Elsewhere in the garden this morning I had discovered yet another owl perched on a stump,

Grass Patch view

and the aerator acquired from the dump yesterday piercing the grass patch. The pheasant and kiwi didn’t look impressed.


One of Margery’s hollyhocks still stands sentinel to the left of this scene.

Today’s bouquet of roses includes

Rose Laura Ford

Laura Ford,

Rose Festive Jewel

Festive Jewel,

Rose Absolutely Fabulous

and Absolutely Fabulous.

Wall butterfly

Butterflies like this well camouflaged Speckled Wood (thanks to Paul Clarke for pointing out that this is not a Wall Brown) have not yet given up,

Bee on bidens

neither have the slurping bees.

This evening we dined on cod in mornay sauce with broccoli florets; and crisp carrots, cauliflower and cabbage. We both drank Cimarosa Pedro Jimenez 2014.

Poppy’s Baptism

Dump haul

This morning we took the remnants of the wheelbarrows photographed yesterday to the Efford Recycling Centre. As usual, we returned with more than we dumped. Today’s haul was two sets of wrought iron gates, a lawn aerator, and a mirror. Can anyone guess what the gates are for?

Chris NZ, Kate, Matt, Poppy, Tess, Jackie, Claire, JoMatt, Tess and PoppyDerrick, Jackie and Poppy

This afternoon Jackie drove us to Mat and Tess’s home in Upper Dicker for Poppy’s Baptism. We gathered with other relatives in their flat above the village shop, then went outside for group photographs on the village green, before proceeding to Holy Trinity Parish Church for the ceremony. Naturally the infant in whose honour we had assembled had a good cry, thus delaying the making of pleasant photographs. Many local friends turned out for the occasion.

In the group photo above, Tess’s sister in law, Kate and her husband Chris are to our left of Matthew, Jackie peers round Tess’s mother Claire, and Jo, one of the godparents stands on our right.

Rev David Farey playing guitar

It is not often that an Anglican Christening is begun by a guitar-playing vicar leading the singing of Amazing Grace, but that is what the reverend David Farey gave us today. When he performed the baptism he was compelled to raise his voice to combat Poppy’s yelling.


Back at the shop we enjoyed Tess’s usual high standard of catering. We were given pizzas, sausage rolls, quiches, crisps, and a deliciously moist iced fruit cake made by Tess’s mother Claire, who had come from New Zealand to help out for a while. She had also made Poppy’s silk dress.

Cake cuttingToasting Poppy

Tess led the toasts, and we all enjoyed conversation for a hour or so.

Our return journey was hampered by the A27 being closed in two places, necessitating long diversions. Our ex coach driver friend, Barrie, had provided us with a very entertaining CD offering a pretty route to Upper Dicker, but as this would take us up to two hours longer to make the journey, we didn’t try it today, although it is possible that our diversions overlapped with some of it.

More Than It Could Chew?

It was yet another unseasonably hot day.

Incinerator and old wheelbarrows

I cleared up after last night’s fire. It had become dark before I was able to finish the exercise. I gathered up the unburnt branches, chopped them up small, and piled them beside the incinerator which has taken the place of the two old wheelbarrows. The rusty metal one suffered enormously from being the pyre container until recently. The green one had been a pond in the Weeping Birch Bed, to which Jackie applied the finishing touches this morning.

Jackie finishing Weeping Birch Bed

Wedding Day pruned

She also completed her work on training the Wedding Day rose on the Agriframes Gothic Arch.

Rose Love Knot

The rose garden, where most roses, like Love Knot, are blooming,

Rose garden in mirror

 encourages a reflective mood.

Bee and ?spider on Cosmos

We continue to enjoy an entomologist’s delight. Actually, I could do with a student of insects to identify what I think might be a baby spider contemplating wrapping up a bumble bee which might be a bit more than it could chew.

?spider on cosmos

The cosmos gives an idea of scale.

This evening we drove over to Emsworth to visit Becky and Ian. Becky had some items for sale in the monthly Emsworth auction, which was very crowded. Our daughter sold an old wind-up gramophone and some Beatles records, among other things, but the prices were disappointing. Afterwards we dined on excellent fish, chips, and gherkins from a shop across the road, with Tesco’s mushy peas. Becky drank chianti and the rest of us enjoyed the Italian Birra Moretti.

Pushmi – Pullyu


Yesterday, Jackie made an unfortunate discovery in the Weeping Birch Bed. Roughly half this plot has been raised on top of the concreted area that we think must have been laid for Post Office vans in the past. It was therefore only a few inches deep. This also explains why water escapes from the un-cemented brick retaining wall. This meant that the border of the back drive had to be further plundered to lift the level. The Head Gardener began the task yesterday and I finished it this morning. The toad that I disturbed hopped away at the speed of an Olympic athlete. The warm weather must have kept it awake.

Jackie planting chrysanthemums

This afternoon I supported Jackie in replenishing this bed. She made a support for the honeysuckle, plonked a fuchsia, and planted various smaller plants, such as yellow chrysanthemums. I helped spread the new topsoil, dead-headed some roses, and divided the libertia.

Libertia division

UnknownThis latter task required the application of two forks in  emulation of Dr Dolittle’s Pushmi – pullyu; the insertion of a fairly useless sharp knife; and strenuous manual prising and tugging.

For those unfamiliar with this creature, Wikipedia informs us  that ‘the pushmi-pullyu (pronounced “push-me—pull-you”) is a “gazelle-unicorn cross” which has two heads (one of each) at opposite ends of its body. In The Story of Doctor Dolittle, the grateful monkeys in Africa persuade it to accompany Dr. Dolittle to England to earn money for him (in Doctor Dolittle’s Circus and Doctor Dolittle’s Caravan.) The pushmi-pullyu usually only uses one of its heads to talk, reserving the other for eating (thus allowing it to eat while speaking without being rude) and claims that its great-grandfather was the last unicorn.

In the 1967 film, the pushmi-pullyu was instead portrayed as a double-headed llama. The doctor can immediately speak to the pushmi-pullyu, knowing that llamas speak a dialect of camel language.’

I did my best to persuade the garden’s insect life that we are now into October, but they just carried on regardless. Perhaps the talking llama could have interpreted for me.

Honey bee drinking from verbena bonarensis

This honey bee simply continued siphoning nectar from a verbena bonarensis.

This evening I burnt much of the recent clippings in the incinerator.

Sunset and bonfire

The rays of the setting sun frolicked with the smoke from the fire.

As is often so, Jackie made enough sausage casserole yesterday for several meals. I was more than happy to sample it again today, with crisp carrots and cabbage, and creamy mashed potato. We had both enjoyed a beer whilst watching the incinerator, so we abstained from drinking with the meal.

Now I am going to watch a recording which will let me know how Wales got on against Fiji in the Rugby World Cup.

Before And After

This morning I e-mailed Ray Salinger a set of the photographs taken at the ‘Seventy Years On’ party.

After this I joined Jackie in the garden, where we continued yesterday’s tasks.

Gravel path front garden

I edged the front garden gravel path with rocks dug out over the last couple of days, then spread the transported earth around the flower beds fronting the house. The thick, stubborn, root behind stone near the front of this section of the path is of lonicera, an overgrown hedging of the honeysuckle family that I did battle with last year.

Weeping Birch Bed

Jackie further opened up the Weeping Birch Bed. In the process she took down the golden arches that we had erected last summer to support honeysuckle and passion flowers that festooned the bed. Anyone inclined to follow this link will be treated to the original state of what became the rose garden. The moss-covered stone edging the bed is tufa. We dug much of out last year, but there was much more still to be removed. These rambling climbers have been reduced in size in readiness for a more suitable frame.

Libertia clump

I dug out a thick clump of trimmed libertia in readiness for its division and replanting.


Colchicums are spreading nicely in the triangular bed, and

Red Admiral on verbena bonarensis

Red Admiral butterflies are having a resurgence.

Suset on wall

This evening the lowering sun burnished the back drive fence and the wall of Bev and John’s house that we had cleared last year;

Virginia creeper, calibrachoa, and fuchsia

and inflamed the Virginia creeper, calibrachoa, and fuchsia.

Cumberland, chilli, and pork chipolata sausages were included in Jackie’s divine  casserole this evening. She served it with ridiculously creamy mashed potato and crisp carrots and cabbage. Treacle sponge pudding and cream was to follow. The Cook drank Bierfest and I drank more of the chianti.


In her latest post, which I read this morning, my blogging friend, Pauline King, https://paulinekingblog.wordpress.com/ reminded me of my flat-share with my friend Giles in Claverton Street i 1973.

This was a basement flat in a Pimlico terrace. The enclosed back yard was a small area of concrete. There was no real sunlight. Nothing grew there. The elderly woman next door, however, enjoyed a wonderful ferny garden in what appeared to be rich soil. One day I asked her how she had soil when we had concrete. ‘Oh, I’ve got concrete underneath,’ she said. ‘I put the earth on top’. ‘Where did you get it?’, I responded. ‘From Battersea Park’. She replied. ‘How did you get it here?’ was my next question. ‘In my handbag’, was the answer.

This wonderful woman had trekked backwards and forwards – it must have been for years – carting bags of soil trowelled up from this London Park situated on the other side of the River Thames. The times superimposed onto Google’s map probably relate to trains from Waterloo. This heroine walked across Battersea Bridge.

Our own efforts at shifting soil today paled into insignificance when compared with that neighbour’s feat. Nevertheless I can offer those up for consideration.

Jackie working on Weeping Birch bed

Jackie continued her work on opening up the Weeping Birch Bed; revealing some hidden plants; resetting others; and infilling soil from the excess on the borders of the back drive.

Gravel path

I dug out the soil from the area worked over yesterday; moved that round to the front of the house; collected several barrow loads of gravel from the pile on the back drive; and spread it over the revealed surface, thus widening the path. The transported earth needs spreading, and the left hand side of the path needs edging with stone. Maybe tomorrow.

On this glorious day the diaphonous wings of small furry bees glinted from many flowers, such as

Bee on verbena bonarensis

verbena bonarensis

Bee on cosmos

and cosmos;

Butterfly Small White on verbena bonarensis

and Small White butterflies, fluttered, flashing, everywhere.

View across weeping birch bed

When we sat drinking fizzy water we looked across the other side of the bed Jackie is renovating. Can you see the Small White in this photograph? (As always, clicking on the image will enlarge)

Mr Pink’s fish and chips had the honour of providing our dinner this evening. We added gherkins, cornichons, or wallies, and pickled onions. I drank more of the Chianti and Jackie drank more fizzy water.