An Important Novel

‘Writer and playwright [James] Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924, in Harlem, New York. One of the 20th century’s greatest writers, Baldwin broke new literary ground with the exploration of racial and social issues in his many works. He was especially known for his essays on the Black experience in America.’ This is an extract from https://www.biography.com/writer/james-baldwin

This afternoon I finished reading the author’s novel ‘Tell Me How Long The Train’s Been Gone’ in which, according to the above-quoted website ‘Baldwin returned to popular themes — sexuality, family and the Black experience. Some critics panned the novel, calling it a polemic rather than a novel. He was also criticized for using the first-person singular, the “I,” for the book’s narration.’ My copy is a first UK edition published in 1968 by Michael Joseph.

In my view the novel was certainly not a polemic. It recounts the story of the life of a man of his times from mid-teens to middle age. The atmosphere of fear and mistrust underlying the life of the Black protagonist is never far from present but the book is far more than a rant. Leo’s struggles with relationships, both within and without the constraints of racial boundaries, both sexual and familial; his bisexuality reflecting the author’s own; finding a non-stereotypical place in the world, are conveyed with sensitivity, compassion, passion, and understanding. Yes, there is progressive seething anger, yet, to my mind, the author’s genuine humanity is the dominating factor.

Baldwin is a literary genius. His writing is eloquent, his fine descriptions elucidating and his complex characterisation credible.

I thought the first person singular enormously enhanced the impact of the book.

He was also very far sighted in his view that change would not come in his lifetime. Indeed, it seems that not much has been learned in the last half century. The author’s work has never been more relevant.

Today, the hottest day of the year, was largely overcast and humid. We began with a trip to the pharmacy at Milford on Sea for repeat medication. The coast road car parks were full to bursting. We continued to Ferndene Farm Shop where Jackie bought some new lavender plants in the uncrowded nursery section, but eschewed the queues to the main shop. We returned home where I spent much of the afternoon indoors and the head Gardener carried out essential watering..

This evening we dined on Jackie’s flavoursome cottage pie with superb al dente carrots and cauliflower, and tasty, meaty, gravy with which she drank sparkling water and I finished the Rioja.

Raindrops And Humidity

This drizzle-wet morning gave way to the hot, humid-wet afternoon on which I carried out a dead-heading exercise.

For those worried about our robin family, Jackie’s internet research has revealed that in summer the missing small birds abandon gardens for woods where a plethora of readily attainable food abounds. They can be expected to return when it takes less effort to follow gardeners around than to forage the fields and forest.

In the meantime we have butterflies like the Small Whites that sup from the verbena bonariensis.

The still bejewelled Deep Secret; the apricot Mamma Mia; and red Love Knot are examples of the Rose Garden Roses, while

along the Shady Path the red climber also retains raindrops.

Yellow rudbeckia Goldsturm and rich red crocosmia Lucifer grace the Palm Bed;

an intriguing gladiolus whose label has been eaten by slugs is propped up in the Oval Bed;

Yellow kniphofias need no support in the Cryptomeria Bed;

in other locations we have more lilies;

bronze fennel and sweet peas,

Japanese anemones and pelargoniums,

and dazzling dahlias.

Later this afternoon I made a minor contribution to Jackie’s extensive watering project. One lesson I have had to learn is that water from the skies does not reach plants in pots.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s cheese-topped classic cottage pie, carrots, and mange touts with tasty beef gravy. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Rioja.

Do Horses Have Twins?

Today, carrying a freshly prepared picnic lunch, Jackie drove us out to the currently sleepy village of Hale in the north west of the New Forest. This proved to be a good choice because all the other tourist spots we passed were quite busy.

We turned off Roger Penny Way into Woodgreen Road running between Godshill Village Hall and The Fighting Cocks pub.

A woman with a mobile phone bent to photograph a portrait of a donkey standing in the middle of the road;

while one of their number stroked another ass her companions were intrigued by one more,

beside a somnolent companion still sporting its winter coat while waiting for the postman, resting its head against the hall wall, on which hangs a defibrillator.

Judging by the number of tiny foals sleeping like any infant on the dry grass beside the pub there has been a recent spate of births.

It didn’t take the young ladies from outside the hall long to pet this one awake.

We continued to Hale Lane from which we could look down on a quilted landscape, and enjoy the sunlight brightening a bracken hedge and dappling the trunk of a mighty oak.

On a previous visit to Hale, featured in https://derrickjknight.com/2019/03/21/posing-comes-with-the-job/ I had photographed these happy thatchers working on

this lengthy roof, now well weathered in.

We enjoyed our picnic on a bench beneath a spreading oak canopy near the

village hall, also bearing a wall-mounted defibrillator.

At lunchtime during normal term-time the green would have resounded with the cries of schoolchildren – not so 2020; the quiet was so still that voices could be discerned on the other side of the open space which belonged to

resident ponies and foal

which eventually trooped off to the shady outskirts.

Passing Wootton Bridge on the way home we spotted a pair of foals prompting us to speculate about whether horses produced twins. Several sites on Google leave us in no doubt that this is a very rare event, the odds against a healthy mare and both twins surviving are 10,000 to 1. We had not seen twin youngsters.

This evening we dined on tangy pork chops coated with mustard and almonds; crisp roast potatoes, including the sweet variety; tender sweetheart cabbage; crunchy carrots; and tasty, meaty gravy with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank a smooth Flores de Soligamar Rioja 2018.

“Not Where You Want To Meet Something Coming Round The Next Bend”

Quite early this morning we drove along

Mount Pleasant Lane beside which

sweeping landscaped fields harboured horses, some sporting fly-protection masks.

Our original destination was South Sway Lane, along which

free manure is usually on offer. All that is required from people helping themselves to this gardeners’ gold is that we leave replacement empty bags for those

that we load into our cars. As always, this morning a quantity of flying livestock came with the horse droppings, so as soon as we arrived home I transported this lot to the compost bins.

Before that we drove around for a while, pausing at Longslade Bottom where I wandered among

ponies, a foal, and walkers with or without dogs. The crowds had not yet built up.

Approaching a bend in Church Lane on the way to Pilley Jackie observed that this was “not where you want to meet something coming round the next bend”.

Very soon she found herself backing round that same corner.

On arrival at Pilley we encountered another group of assorted ponies. I explained to a couple of European visitors that the lake bed on which some of the larger animals were grazing was not normally so dry. The tourists were quite alarmed at the violence with which the smaller ones were butted out of the way by the bigger variety.

A solitary bay fronted the thatched cottages beside the green..

This evening we dined on second helpings of Forest Tandoori’s excellent takeaway fare with which I finished the Malbec and Jackie abstained.

Her Pride And Joy

Late yesterday evening Jackie raced round the garden with her camera, gleefully photographing

her pride and joy. Petunias, pelargoniums, phlox, fuchsias, clematises, alliums, agapanthuses, dahlias, verbenas, campanulas, erigeron, lilies, Japanese anemones, diascias, begonias, eucalyptus, roses, and no doubt many I’ve missed. As usual, clicking on any image will produce the gallery, each member of which is separately labelled and can be viewed full size by clicking on the box beneath it, and further bigified with subsequent clicks.

As if that weren’t enough, the Assistant Photographer dashed out later to capture

the full moon, and again this morning to add

crocosmias Emily McKenzie and Solfatare,

and finally Lycesteria.

I had my work cut out today to select from 56 images, load them into the iMac, edit and crop them, then transfer them to WordPress retyping each title. I left my own camera alone, and for the first time ever rejected the offer of a forest drive, otherwise I would have been at the computer until midnight.

This evening we dined on Forest Tandoori takeaway fare with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Malbec.

The First Of October

My Under Gardener tasks this cooler, more cloudy, morning consisted of a little clearing to compost and a lot of rose decapitation.

Among the regular bloomers like the White Winchester Cathedral,

the prolific bright yellow Absolutely Fabulous, and the fulsome Lady Emma Hamilton a number of repeat performers are taking the stage.

Just Joey has risen from

the red carpet that continues to attract bustling bees.

The peachy velvet Schoolgirl graces the arbour

beneath which Gertrude Jekyll stretches from sleep, while

budding Deep Secret is currently keeping us in the dark.

This afternoon we drove to the less touristy east of the forest.

We had been promised a 30% chance of rain today. The nearest we got to that was a distant fall when driving along St Leonards Road.

The skies on the opposite side, across The Solent over the Isle of Wight, had no rain to drop.

The roof of the ancient St Leonard’s granary, which, as explained in https://derrickjknight.com/2016/08/04/salt-marshes/ once served Beaulieu Abbey, glows a rich rusty orange;

a pigeon surveys the scene from a ruined arch bearing similarly hued highlights.

Our mighty oaks do suffer in the heavy winds. Here, one huge limb has recently been wrenched off. The stump in the fourth picture has been a more distant casualty.

Further along a covey of juvenile pheasants were possibly discussing the approaching 1st of October when their shooting season starts.

This evening we dined on a rack of pork ribs in a rich barbecue sauce, mini spring rolls, Jackie’s tasty egg fried rice, and tender green beans, with which the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Trapiche Pure unoaked Argentinian Malbec 2019 – a birthday present from Helen and Bill.

Making Do

On another hot summer’s day visiting traffic continued to pour into our area, so we stayed at home and I made do with garden flower photography.

During the morning and later in the afternoon Jackie concentrated hard on irrigation, including filling the Waterboy’s shell, the level of which suffers from dehydration and thirsty birds.

Butterflies and bees didn’t seem to mind the heat as they flitted from plant to plant. There is room for both Small White butterfly and a bee on the hibiscus in the first picture; bees had sole occupation of the bidens and the saxifrages; the Meadow Brown and the Small White butterflies were unwilling to share space on the sedum or the verbena bonariensis.

Today’s lilies are the heavily scented pale pink double and the freckled beauty seen in better light.

It is the season for dahlias including the two-toned Puerto Rico.

The season for this rhododendron is long over, but the plant doesn’t know that.

Pale pink phlox coexist with rich rust-coloured chrysanthemums.

Lady Emma Hamilton and Ballerina dance on in the Rose Garden, while soaring Altissimo and an unknown pink climber once more reach for the skies.

Hollyhocks, rudbeckia Goldsturm, California poppies, petunias, and hydrangea Tricolor all lend their colour.

Much as the Head Gardener tries to train her clematises, some, like this Niobe, insist on trailing where they will.

As always, the galleries can be accessed by clicking on any image, each of which may be viewed full size by clicking on the box beneath it and further with another click.

Later this afternoon Elizabeth visited for a cup of tea and didn’t stay for dinner which consisted of Jackie’s egg fried rice, mini spring rolls, and tempura and spicy prawns. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Carles.

A Splendid Oak

On this hot, humid, and overcast morning our friend Giles visited for a tour of the garden he had not been able to enter since before the lockdown.

We enjoyed a pleasant catching up, continued over coffee inside.

This afternoon, after filling up with petrol, Jackie drove me to the north of the forest.

The ponies again gathered on Ringwood Road outside Burley, but largely stuck to the verges where they nibbled hedges and left deposits in driveways.

I disembarked at the Smugglers Road car park and climbed a well-trodden pony trail

so dry that it had partially turned to sand.

Various similar tracks wound across the arid moorland hillsides among the banks of purpling heather.

We drove along the lanes around Linwood where woodsmoke filled the air;

and along the cup de sac to Highwood where I aroused the curiosity of a pair of heavy field horses.

Just outside Ibsley a splendid oak stretched wide its arms.

This evening we dined on lean, slow roasted, brisket of beef; roast garlic potatoes; crisp Yorkshire pudding; crunchy carrots; and tender sweetheart cabbage, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Carles.

Shifting Light

This morning my gardening occupations combined dead heading and making photographs.

These roses Summer Wine and Altissimo, both coming again, were too high for me to reach with hand secateurs, and I couldn’t be bothered to fetch the steps.

Bigifying will probably be necessary to appreciate these bees on bidens, on Japanese anemones, and coming to land on crocosmia. Just click on any image to access the gallery and enlarge further with clicks on the ‘view full size’ box underneath and again if required. The bees swarming the Japanese anemones must be welcoming the plants’ early blooming.

Crocosmia blend well with other plants such as these bell-like alliums and the Japanese maple with its fingers singed by recent violent winds.

From beside this latter crocosmia I was able, through the maple, to view the petunias and pelargoniums featured alongside the kitchen wall.

We haven’t identified all the clematises in the garden. The first of this triptych above, for example, is a Lidl unnamed purchase; we do know that it is Niobe who shares the arch with the fuchsia, Chequerboard; the Head Gardener was determined to track down ‘clematis viticella purpurea plena elegans’, which took her some time, because when we arrived seven years ago this then weakly specimen was ailing in the rubble jungle that we eventually turned into the Rose Garden – it was fostered out in another bed until we returned it to its native soil, and has taken three years to reach the top of its supporting beam.

One of these yellow evening primrose blooms has survived the night well; this phantom hydrangea is also a survivor – it is the plant after which the eponymous path is named – first planted on one side of the Phantom Path it was really rather poorly for its first two years, until Aaron moved it into Margery’s Bed where it has enjoyed more light. We hope it will soon be in the shape in which we bought it.

Hemerocallis still thrive and we also have stargazer lilies in the main garden.

Four hours later, in mid afternoon I set out once more with my camera, giving me shifted lighting conditions.

A bee did its best to weigh down a verbena bonariensis.

Niobe could now sunbathe, and the clematis at the barrier between the garden and the back drive enjoyed light and shade;

the freckled lilies kept out of the direct sunlight;

sweet peas and hollyhocks could take it stronger.

My lens found the white flowers the best beneficiaries: sweet scented petunias, powerfully aromatic phlox, a clutch of dahlias, different Japanese anemones and the phantom hydrangea sheltered in shade this morning.

This evening we dined on prawn fish cakes, peas, and fresh crispy bread and butter with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Carles from a second bottle.

Exercising Their Right

As I sit at my computer early in the morning reading regular WP posts, I am treated to

the gently swaying delights of Stargazer lilies and fuchsia Delta’s Sarah in the front garden.

Unidentified lilies graced the dragon bed where,

observed by a basking ladybird,

I dug holes for two more roses set to climb the Head Gardener’s recently purchased arch. Hopefully they will soon rival the runner beans in the Palm Bed.

A trip to the compost bins revealed dahlias and a fuchsia blending nicely in the New Bed alongside what I think is a Meadow Brown butterfly drinking from a verbena bonariensis.

This afternoon we drove to Bisterne Close to deliver the print made yesterday and enjoyed a conversation with Jan and Steve.

Afterwards we turned into Forest Road where

this pony produced a natural silhouette.

Passing sunlit bracken by the roadside,

I followed a pair of grey ponies into

the more major Ringwood Road where they joined a group of cousins in exercising their right over the traffic leaving and entering Burley.

This evening we dined on tasty baked gammon; crisp roast potatoes; cheesy macaroni pie; crunchy carrots and broccoli; and tender runner beans with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Carles.