Rasputin

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Shed by trees and strewn around the garden’s beds and paths, last winter’s twigs would have filled a mattress.

Twigs

Those I gathered this afternoon certainly occupied the best part of one of our orange bags of ‘green’ refuse destined for the recycling centre.

Father Christmas was generous with hose this year. Even so, my sock drawer gradually became surprisingly full to overflowing. Jackie’s, however, was rapidly emptying. Eventually she realised that I had been mistaking hers for mine.

Jackie's socks and hearth

I really have no claim on these.

Also shown here are the cast iron fireplace and the wooden surround still awaiting final fixing. The copper fender was a present from our son and daughter, so must be accommodated. The blue tiles were already in situ. Whilst the laminate flooring is quite good quality, if you like that sort of thing, it has been appallingly fitted and we really would like to see the back of it. That, of course, would require lifting it to reveal what we hope will be the original floorboards. With any luck these will not have been butchered. Fingers crossed.

Readers will remember that, hands flattened on our kitchen window, bewhiskered nose twitching, an amiable rat peered longingly at our Christmas dinner. Some time after that Jackie discovered holes in the birdseed on the utility room shelf; later still, she heard rustling. It was time to put down bait. On a daily basis, the poisoned seed was disturbed in the morning. Either our visitor deserved the name Rasputin allocated to him, or his whole family had followed, or come to look for him when he didn’t return.

Rat bait

We were rather sad when, today, we discovered an undisturbed pile of bait.

This evening we dined on starters of prawn toasts and spring rolls from Tesco; Jackie’s sublime egg fried rice; and Lidl’s tender oriental pork. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank San Adres Chilean merlot.

From Autumn Leaves to Snowdrops

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Bill Edney had the unenviable task of getting those of us schoolboys at Wimbledon College who could not manage Latin through ‘O’ Level Geography after several terms without a teacher. Today I remembered a different anecdote from that told in the link highlighted above.

Sheep, I know do not like long, lush, grass. How do I know? Because Mr Edney, a bluff countryman, publicly humiliated a classmate by ridiculing him for writing in an essay that sheep “like long, lush, grass”. According to the master they most definitely do not. How were we townies to know that? This lasting intelligence prevented me from seeking ovine assistance on our patch of overgrown grass. Having no sheep, I sheared it myself.

Grass cut

It still looks manky at the moment, but should perk up now the air can get to it.

Gazebo Path

This exercise exposed the tortoise, removing its hibernation cover.

Heligan Path

Close examination of this view along the Heligan Path reveals that

Crocus

purple crocuses are now emerging.

Crocuses and snowdrops

These paler ones share with snowdrops the shade of hellebores in the Weeping Birch Bed.

Bee on Hellebore

During the morning the warm sunshine brought out insects such as bees on hellebores

Bee on snowdrop

and on snowdrops;

Red Admiral on laurel

and a Red Admiral butterfly basking on laurel leaves,

Red Admiral on autumn leaves

seeking camouflage in autumn leaves,

Red Admiral on snowdrops

and slaking its thirst on snowdrops.

Palm Bed

This view across the Palm Bed leads to the grass patch.

Erigeron thinning

Jackie spent the morning clearing and thinning areas such as the erigeron clumps by the windows to the living room. This will soon be carpeted once more with daisy-like flowers.

This evening we dined on roast lamb, Jackie’s sage and onion stuffing, sautéed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, carrots, cauliflower, and greens. I finished the Cote du Rhone.

What’s Come Up

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Today, I wandered around the garden contemplating spring clearing, and investigating what’s come up.

Primulas 1

There are many different primulas;

Borage 1

 borage;

Borage 2

pulmonaria;

snowdrops

and hellebores galore;

daffodils such as February Gold and Têtes-à-Têtes;

Crocuses

crocuses;

Iris

irises;

Cyclamen

and cyclamen.

Heligan and brick paths

Views across the garden reveal most of these plants, and what needs to be done. Here we stand on the Brick Path to the left of the Heligan one.

Margery's Bed

The Phantom Path runs alongside Margery’s Bed.

Palm Bed

This is the Palm Bed;

Cryptomeria Bed

and this the Heligan Path winding between the Cryptomeria and Weeping Birch Beds.

This afternoon Jackie lopped the branches off the Christmas tree and filled an orange bag with those and the campaniflora clematis cuttings.

Roast lamb served with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, crunchy carrots, cauliflower and green beans was Jackie’s meal this evening. I had some, too. This was followed by lemon meringue pie and cream. I drank Vacqueras cru des Côtes du Rhône 2015.

Forest Pursuits

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We spent the morning driving around the forest before lunching at Holmsley Old Station Tea Rooms.

Misty landscape with sun

The strong early morning sun forced its way through the rising mist, and eventually dominated the blue skies, warming

the landscape,

Oak branches

and eventually lighting the lichen-covered oaks,

some of which were reflected in the myriad of pools like these on the way to Burley.

Pool and golf green 2

Crossing the road I arrived at another small lake that turned out to be part of a golf course.

As I contemplated the green further up the hill, I imaged what it would be like to hit your ball into the water.

Preceded by their voices a group of golfers dragged their bags into view. I passed on my thoughts, and the gentleman facing me in the second picture, informed me, with a wry smile, that they didn’t need to imagine it.

There are many fords on the forest roads, with bridges for pedestrians wishing to cross swollen streams. This crossing near Burley was dry,

Stream 1

and clear water flowed fast beneath it.

On this fine spring Saturday there was much traffic on the road. This did not deter somnolent ponies who ignored cars slaloming around them and cyclists whizzing through the central gap.

Horse

A domestic horse tore nonchalantly at the beech hedge beside its wire fencing.

Telephone box reflected

At Brockenhurst a working Telephone box was reflected in a seasonal pool.

The structure had clearly been left exposed to the elements without protective paint for a number of years. A pile of rubbish carpeted the floor, and it was necessary to negotiate a discarded poop scoop bag to reach the peeling door.

Perhaps it would have been an idea to offer the management to local residents as in the case of this one at Wootton. This is also reflected, but it would be more savoury to make one’s way through mud and pony droppings than the obstacle mentioned above.

There were many golfers playing on various courses on this beautiful morning.

Dog being dried

Also engaged in forest pursuits were dog walkers like this couple drying their dog after a romp amongst the dewy bracken.

Cyclists abounded. Take note of the two heads ascending the hill behind those in the first picture.

Horse riders on Forest Road

Many horse riders were seen on the country roads and across the moors.

Joggers exercised alone,

Joggers

or in couples. Do you recognise the two heads seen on the road to Burley? Here they are somewhat later.

For lunch at Holmsley Jackie chose her favourite macaroni cheese. My meal was an excellent fish pie served with carrots, peas, and greens.

This evening the Culinary Queen produced a thick mushroom and cheese omelette for our dinner.

Still Hanging Around

This post is the one I wrote but seem to have failed to send yesterday, 17th February 2017.

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Yesterday evening Jackie, Elizabeth and I visited Southampton City Art Gallery for a preview of:

17 February to 22 April 2017
An exhibition of paintings by Hilda Margery Clarke to celebrate her 90th year.  She was born in Manchester and learnt to paint through the guidance of L.  S.  Lowry, with whom she remained life-long friends until his death in 1976.  She moved to Southampton in 1954, and studied drawing under the excellent tuition of Peter Folkes at Southampton Art College.  Since 1965, Clarke has exhibited locally and in London, and remained an important part of the city’s art scene.  In 1984, she established “The First” Gallery in her Bitterne home, consolidating ten earlier annual mixed shows there, as a venue to support other serious artists, only latterly promoting her own work.
Her subject matter includes the world around us and beyond, glimpsed and imagined, interpreted with compassion and warm humour, evident in her interest in people.  The exhibition will be accompanied by a small display of works from the collection by artists that have inspired Clarke, including L.  S.  Lowry, Richard Eurich and Eric Meadus. 

Most of you will know by now that the artist is our dear friend Margery, some of whose work has already featured on this blog.

Although I haven’t really done full justice to the painter’s colours, I think readers will get the picture from this selection of prolific creativity spanning such a long, active, life. The exhibition was so well attended that it was not possible to photograph all the labels without intruding on visitors’ privacy. Unfortunately there was no catalogue, but Margery’s son Paul may have the time to offer supplementary detail. (Please see Paul’s invaluable series of comments below, for which I am most grateful)

Derrick, Margery, and another

Rachel Adams a photographer covering the event for the Southampton Echo, was kind enough to duplicate one of her poses of Margery and two friends with my camera.

Afterwards we dined at BrewHouse & Kitchen microbrewery and restaurant in Highfield, Southampton. This large establishment was very full. It was a good thing that Elizabeth had booked a table. Dutch, Belgian, and English beers were consumed by my sister, Jackie, and me respectively. My main meal was spicy cajun gumbo served with long grain rice and the addition of a few of the chips provided with the ladies’ special burgers. We all enjoyed magnificent sundaes which would ideally have taken a month in which to eat them.

We are quite optimistic that a large number of further buckets of water applied by Jackie this morning has finally cleared our unsavoury septic tank pipes.

This afternoon we took two large orange bags of rooted bamboo to the Efford Recycling Centre. Now we have no excuse for filling more green refuse, which we will first have to cut.

Our dinner this evening was enjoyed at Daniels Fish and chip restaurant in Highcliffe. We both chose cod and chips. Jackie supplemented hers with mushy peas and mozarella sticks; my addition was pickled onions.

Father And Son

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Today work began on our fireplace. First Baz and Owen inspected the prospective purchase at Gordleton Barn, pronounced it suitable, and set about making ready for it.

This is the doubtful D.I.Y. effort that started the day in our living room.

Barrie and Owen Chislett-Bruce are New Forest Chimney Sweeping & Repairs. This father and son team are personable, thorough, efficient, and work quickly, cleanly, and tidily.

Here they are at work removing the orange shelf and the bodged tiling.

They were pleased not to have damaged any of the tiles, which Owen stacked up neatly.

They then carried out the task of clearing the raised rock-hard concrete from the open space,

hoovering as they went along.

Baz and Owen contemplating fireplace 1

Baz and Owen then collected the Victorian replacement from the barn, and contemplated it for a while.

Baz and Owen contemplating fireplace 2

This involved Baz sticking his head up the chimney.

There were several possible options for ensuring a tight fit, the preferred one being removing a row of the original hearth floor tiles, and removing more of the concrete. This required considerable effort.

Fireplace 3

The cast iron tiled fireplace was firmly fixed, ready for the next stage.

A final vacuuming was carried out,

Fireplace 4

and this is how they left us until further elements are obtained and fitted.

Observant readers will have noticed that the men, while working their socks off, do so in their socks. This, the groundsheets, the hoovering,

Rubble bags

and bagging up the rubble as they go along, demonstrates their careful attention to the homes in which they work.

Whilst at the barn, I took a few more pictures of the interior.

It is now soon after 3.00 p.m. We will be driving over to Elizabeth’s for the three of us to attend Margery’s exhibition at Southampton Art Gallery, after which we will have a meal together. I will then have no time (or energy) to post this, so I will do so know and report the evening tomorrow.

From Dawn To Dusk

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The pale pastel pink and blue skies that Dawn ushered in this morning  showed a certain amount of promise. But she was only kidding. Within half an hour or so, she slid a slate canopy over our heads, and steady rain set in.

Fireplace

We paid a visit to Gordleton Barn where we found a new idea for our fireplace. we will ask Baz to vet it tomorrow.

Obviously I made a few more photographs of the artefacts on display.

Lichen over Avon stream

A tributary of the River Avon runs under Silver Street, the home of the barn.

Mill Race

On one side of the winding road lies Gordleton Mill, the race of which speedily rushed along.

On the other, a couple of woolly sheep snuffled among the sodden leaves.

By late afternoon, the canopy had, albeit temporarily, been retracted, enabling a fine sunset,

Isle of Wight 2

tingeing houses on the Isle of Wight, to put in an appearance over Milton on Sea.

A small group enjoyed the shoreline,

Silhouetted couple at sunset

others preferred the clifftop.

It is not unusual for Jackie to spot a potential view and sit in the car willing me to turn and see it. This was the case with this boat on the horizon. She yelled at me from her Modus. Naturally, I grabbed the opportunity. Neither of us realised that the vessel was visible approaching the sunbeams in my earlier shots.

For our dinner this evening, Jackie supplemented a second sitting of yesterday’s Chinese takeaway with shredded duck, cucumber, spring onions, and pancakes, with which I drank more of the Chilean Shiraz first opened a couple of days ago.