Fidelity

This morning we visited Shelley and Ron’s home bearing flowers and cards for a particular occasion. Ron was otherwise engaged, but Helen was also present. We enjoyed coffee and conversation and returned home for lunch.

Having reached page 556 of The Pickwick Papers I am ready to reproduce another batch of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to the Folio Society edition.

Close perusal of the last double page spread comparing the author’s text with the lively line drawings will display the artist’s fidelity to Charles Dickens’s writing and the skill of whoever planned the layout of the book. Should it be necessary, a click or two will enlarge the leaves.

This evening we dined on roast lamb; roast potatoes and butternut squash; crisp Yorkshire pudding; crunchy carrots; tender cabbage; and very meaty gravy, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Finca Carelio Tempranillo Barrica 2015.

Arboreal Destruction

Precipitation of varying velocity and winds of unwavering ferocity beset the day.

This morning we drove to the outskirts of Burley and back.

It is not unusual to be held up by tree cutters carrying out routine arboreal management. This is perhaps more frequent at the moment, as the unrelenting recent series of storms have taken their toll.

Here, on Holmsley Road, overhanging branches were being lopped . Especially in the pouring rain, I do sympathise with the men supporting the Stop/Go lollipops. I hope they take it in turns. Jackie let me out of the car when we were stopped and took the first photograph through the windscreen before passing the barrier. I walked, and took the second. The men were somewhat concerned that I might not stay on my feet.

The gentleman doing the lopping was happy to pose for a rear view.

Further along the road I wondered whether that team had earlier attended to this fallen tree

which attracted a trio of ponies seeking fresh nutriment from the lichen coated branches.

The last time I photographed this dead oak tree with its fungus and lichen on Bisterne Close it was standing firm.

It stands no more,

its shallow roots ripped into open air. This giant will now gradually take its part  in the maintenance of the forest ecology, feeding insects, plants, and soil for years to come.

Given its position on the verge it did well to fall away from the road.

The rain really hammered down on our return home. A group of stoic ponies alongside  Holmsley Passage simply stood and bore it.

This evening we dined on second helpings of Hordle Chinese Take Away’s excellent fare with which Jackie finished the Sauvignon Blanc and I finished the Shiraz.

 

Agriframes Destructions

Our Ace Reclaim arch in the corner of the Rose Garden has not survived the storms. Already rusting and having lost one of its important bars it was probably only being held together by the roses it was there to support.

Aaron this morning broke it up in order to replace it wit

an Agriframes bower.

Now, longer term readers may remember our struggle with The Agriframes Arch which had driven Jackie and me to distraction. Agriframes products are very good; they are resilient, rust resistant, and guaranteed for 15 years.

But – and a very big but – they demand self-assembly – not by the structures themselves, but by the buyers; furthermore their printed directions, termed like many, ‘destructions’ by Aaron are so difficult to follow that it has taken more than five years for us to contemplate buying another product.

This time, we have Aaron of A.P. Maintenance. He is a professional, had already assembled a few flat pack arches for us, and should surely be able to meet the challenge. Not so. His ‘destructions’ were both confusing and confused. He was thrown by the leaflet at one point stating that he should have six particular components for one section. He had only four. Later, the destructive instructions stated four. Some words had been omitted from the text rendering the meaning unintelligible.

A crucial clamp seemed impossible to apply. At one point the section Aaron is seen working on above fell apart and he had to start again.

Have I mentioned that he was beset throughout by light rain and heavy winds?

I thought not. This would never normally stop him working.

Our friend enjoys a challenge but at the end of his allotted time he was back where he started. The ‘destructions’ sheets were sopping wet and so was he. There was no option but to throw in the towel. Next week Aaron will bring a colleague to help.

This experience sent Jackie to research reviews on line. Those on independent sites were almost all negative. One from Facebook is relevant:

‘Three professional landscapers were unable to assemble your Sussex Bower in my clients garden and wasted 2 days trying to to so. They spent many weeks trying to negotiate a refund for this item and you have only agreed to give them a small fraction of the price they paid for it on the basis that it was ‘used’! Your assurances on your website do not bear out and your customer service is very poor.’

https://www.reviews.co.uk/company-reviews/store/agriframes is another source.

This afternoon I watched the ITV broadcast of the Six Nations rugby international between England and Ireland.
This evening we dined on Hordle Chinese Take Away’s excellent fare with which I drank more of the Shiraz, and Jackie didn’t.

 

 

 

 

Back Gardening

Yesterday evening we watched the second episode of series 3 of The Crown, which contained more scenes and dialogue stretching credulity/

Opposite the field occupied by our gimlet-eyed equine friend on South Sway Lane are heaped bags of free horse manure.

We brought one back on 20th and I tipped it out onto the most recent garden compost bin.

Today I added two more.

This of course may not seem much of an effort but the enforced dereliction of my Under Gardener duties consequent upon two knee replacements has ensured that this is the first decent task I have carried out in two years. It involves lifting the savoury material from the back of the Modus, transporting the individual bags to the back drive, lifting each one, turning it topsy-turvy, dropping the contents falling in a solid bag-shape, and raking it level.

It is early days, but it feels ss if I am back gardening.

Wherever we look in the garden today we see daffodils, snowdrops, hellebores, and other spring blooms – and an owl or two.

This afternoon I watched the Six Nations rugby internationals between Scotland and Italy, and between Wales and France.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s roast lamb; sage and onion stuffing; crisp roast potatoes; crunchy carrots; tender cabbage; soft butternut squash; and Coleman’s mint sauce with which the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Concha y Toro Casilliero del Diablo Shiraz 2017.

Their Hay Day

Today was dull and dry.

This morning Jackie photographed a great tit in the garden.

After lunch she drove us to Helen and Bill’s home in Fordingbridge. My sister-in-law was returning two grandchildren to their parents; we stayed chatting with Bill for a while and drank his coffee. We left birthday presents for Helen, then took a leisurely route home through the forest.

Three deer had wandered into a garden on Frogham Hill.

Jackie braved the shuddering potholes at Abbots Well in order to enjoy the landscape

which despite the sun’s feeble attempts to penetrate the cloud canopy remained rather murky.

A crow conversing with a bay pony

delayed its descent down the sloping woodland.

Another pony following the first passed one of the many

worrying signs that seem to proliferate in this area. Just after I photographed this example a young man having difficulty instructing his bouncing dog to sit effectually settled it enough for him to remove its lead and set it bounding off, quite close to this

grazing pony.

 

On Cadnam Lane a farmer squelched across the boggy green to leave a heap of hay for the waiting assortment of ponies. He wore wellies. I didn’t, so my walking shoes collected a coating of claggy clay as

I approached

the diners.

Mutual grooming was undertaken by some of the Shetlands carrying caked mud.

On our way home a couple of deer sped across Roger Penny Way in the glare of a car’s headlights.

This evening we dined at The Wheel Inn. We both enjoyed tempera prawn starters; my main meal was a succulent steak speared with a stick of prawns; crisp chips; and fresh salad. Jackie’s choice was equally good mushroom stroganoff and salad. She drank Becks and I drank Ringwood’s Best.

One For Quercus

High winds gusted and steady rain fell throughout the morning, only lifting at 2 p.m. when we set off to South Sway Lane in order visit our equine friend with the striking eyes.

Unbeknown to each other we both carried a carrot. Now we have a spare in the car.

First Jackie photographed a pheasant, because our friend was a long way down her field.

As soon as the nameless pony spotted us she made straight for our feeding station.

Stretching over the fence, she was most eager to relieve me of whatever I might have about my person.  I held up my finger and enjoined her to wait until the Assistant Photographer was ready.

 

On Jackie’s say so I handed over the carrot, which between us we managed to

drop on the ground. “Now What?” neighed the pony.

“Have no fear,” I replied.picking it up. “I am here”. By this time I was confident I would not lose any fingers, and made a better fist of the process.

Perhaps I was getting a bit excited here.

The vegetable was gratefully received and rapidly consumed. Jackie produced this whole set of pictures, including those in which I do not feature.

We then proceeded to Woodpeckers to visit Mum who was on good form and very proud to display the Amaryllis which we had given her as a bulb for Christmas. It is apparently a talking point among the staff. Three blooms ar shown here, There are four more in bud.

The pencil drawing on the wall is one I made of Elizabeth when she was about 4 and I would have been 16.

By the late afternoon when we left the clouds had dissipated and we were treated to clear sunshine. Without the cloud cover the temperature dropped from 10 to 5 degrees.

The woodland along Balmer Lawn Road out of Brockenhurst was burnished by the sun; lichen glowed; shadows stretched fingers across the soggy ground, embracing the wide oak trunks;

numerous pools reflected trees and skies.

Jackie photographed me once more as I ventured across the muddy terrain.

In particular she was keen to catch me hoisting my trouser legs as I prepared to negotiate a watery ditch. Our blogging friend Quercus had recently suggested that she should produce a picture of such an event for his amusement. This one is for Quercus.

Such temporary lakes such as this at East Boldre are appearing all over the forest.

Further along the same road, as woodland gives way to moorland, grazing ponies do not have far to go for a drink.

This evening we dined on spicy pizza with fresh salad with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the El Zumbido, Garnacha, Syrah.

Look. No Hands

This afternoon we both collected our new specs from Boots, then drove into the dreary, drizzly forest.

Along Undershore there stood an example of the broken trees on soggy terrain that currently proliferate in the woodlands.

There wasn’t much sign of life until we came across cattle wandering along Sowley Lane.

Owner’s tags, as always, adorned their ears as they stared us out.

Several calves were left to their own devices, although by and large they stuck to the verges. One chewed its tail;

tried on a new necklace;

and indulged in a bit of grooming.

One seated adult turned her clarty back on the proceedings;

another had dried her hide after a mud bath.

Crowds of crows took to the air overhead.

Ponies on the corner of St Leonards Road were equally mud-caked;

one somnolent group dozed beside

a weedy winding winterbourne stream swiftly swirling,

sweeping loose leaves and flexing fixeded grasses while surging to a tunnel under the road.

As may be imagined from its name, such a watercourse flows only during the winter months.

The terrain at this junction between St Leonards Road and that to East Boldre becomes a similar pool during very wet weather. Today a passing cyclist was reflected in it.

He clearly had no use for his steering bars as his hands were otherwise engaged. I hoped he was the only one going round the bend.

This evening we dined on belly of pork, roasted long and slow in order to drain away the fat; firm roast potatoes and parsnips; crunchy carrots and tender cabbage, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Carenina El Zumbido Garnacha Syrah 2018.