This morning Jackie drove me to the bank at Lymington to order more Antipodean currency. Since it was such a bright, crisp, day we continued on to the forest.

The moors on the approach to Brockenhurst were alive with strings of ponies basking, snoozing, ambling, grazing among the browned bracken and the now naked trees.

Ponies in landscape 4



We have an expression, ‘stir your stumps’, indicating ‘get your feet moving’. If you have ever seen one of these cumbersome creatures, forelegs first, dragging hind-quarters, heaving itself to its feet, you may understand what this involves.

Cigarette end and packet on verge

Maybe a cigarette smoker had stood watching this bucolic scene; maybe just lobbed the detritus from his or her car.

Whilst the occasional equine ambled towards me, most continued their silent dining, casting shadows, and collecting bracken clinging to their mud-caked hides.

Although one turned its sleepy head in my direction, donkeys dozing by the roadside on the outskirts of the village itself, seemed oblivious of the passing traffic.

From Brockenhurst we travelled to the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive.

Most of the trees there are giant redwoods or Sequoias planted many years ago.

Impressive as are these mighty evergreens,

at this time of the year their beauty lies far below their lofty summits, among the curling bracken, the fallen leaves, and their stark shadows.

All of a sudden, the peaceful silence of the forest was shattered by a distant raucous bark. I peered through the trees, seeking an uncouth canine. I then realised that the bark spelled out “C’m’ere”. I glimpsed a woman giving chase, but no dog. I do believe a profanity was uttered. Eventually a little white pooch was clutched, harnessed, and led off without a protest.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s praiseworthy lamb jalfrezi and perfect onion rice. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank Chonch y Toro Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon 2016.

The Chinese Lantern


Today I found another batch of colour negatives, previously presumed lost. These are of

Becky and Flo at Lindum House in Newark during the summer of 2002.

Flo played tennis with a somewhat reluctant Paddy, the dog.

Flo 2002 4

She also ran about

and enjoyed the swing, especially when her Mum pushed her.

Becky introduced her daughter to Chinese lanterns.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s luscious lamb jalfrezi and onion rice. She drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Malbec.


Magic And Witchcraft

Technology is fine when it works, but you really can’t trust it. Yesterday I discovered that O’Neill Patient had never received my complaints letter. Having paid the extra fee for tracking and recording delivery, it never occurred to me that I would not get what I had paid for. When the Royal Mail website indicated that the letter had been posted, but not that it had been delivered, it was with some difficulty that I found a telephone number which I rang, in the hope of speaking to a person. Of course I got a machine giving options which didn’t quite cover my situation. This meant waiting for an adviser and listening to music for 16 minutes. The person who eventually came on the line advised me, with profuse apologies, that the package had neither been delivered nor retained. I could claim compensation if there was anything valuable inside. I said I didn’t think they would compensate me for embarrassment, and I couldn’t  be bothered to claim back the postage. I e-mailed a copy of the letter to the solicitor.

Early this morning the solicitor phoned me to check that I had received his e-mail saying he had never received the letter. I replied that I had, and that I had e-mailed a copy. He had never received that e-mail. I sent it again. It bounced back. Eventually he did receive it, but couldn’t open the attachment because it was an iMac document and they run on Windows. He passed it to his IT team to see if they could convert it. They couldn’t.

Becky entered the fray and learned that in my earliest mail I had misspelled the firm’s name. She then sent the letter as a PDF document and Mr Bourke received and acknowledged it.

While I was in the mood, I telephoned BT sales department concerning our constant interruption of Broadband connection. I asked for an engineer visit. It was two hours before one was booked. Two hours spent on the telephone.

I went through the history of our problems with the first man. He tried to sell me Fibreoptic Infinity. I gave him the story of one of his predecessors assuring me, despite my questioning it, having sold me it. This had resulted in 5 different engineer visits. Only on the fifth was I informed that we were too far from the cabinet from which supply is transferred. We returned to the older system. He said he wasn’t technical and would transfer me to someone who could help. “Please don’t send me to India and have me put through checks I have carried out numerous times before”, I asked. He said he wouldn’t. With no further contact he sent me to India.

I was then subjected to the whole array of usual checks. Since the woman was very polite and patient, I was the same with her. I did, however, stating that I didn’t like saying so because I did not want to be rude, mention that her accent was a problem, for example when she asked me to take the plug out of the “ello” port on the back of the hub, I struggled to realise that she meant “yellow”. As a non-technical person, I had been seeking L O.

She also spoke about superfast broadband. Once more I carefully explained our experience with that. After 25 minutes she said that our contract only allowed for 1 megabyte, so we needed to increase this. She then wanted to do more tests which I declined when she assured me that the increase could be arranged with the old type of cable. There is now no doubt that something had been lost in translation.

Back I went to the sales department. The conversation I’d had with the previous adviser was repeated almost word for word, except that he said I would need superfast cable. He then offered to transfer me to a technician. I insisted it should be someone in England. He complied with this, and gave me the number to which he was referring me.

An English technician ran the checks and called me back when she had finished. She said that the usual tolerance they work to is 4 drops a day. We have 92. An engineer has been booked for the 18th. If it turns out to be our equipment that is at fault it will cost me £130. That was not the case the last time engineers visited. Fingers crossed.

Well, that took care of the morning.

What better antidote to wrestling with the 21st Century mystifying technical progress than to lose myself in a book first published in 1921, relating a mystical story set in the thirteenth century – publication before the internet was invented, and taking us back to a time when even printing itself had not been invented.

This afternoon I finished another book by James Branch Cabell illustrated by Frank C, Papé. This was the Bodley Head 1925 edition enhanced by Papé’s illustrations.

The work is ‘Figures of Earth – a Comedy of Appearances’.  Although containing some beautifully poetic descriptive passages this rather picaresque fantasy novel to my mind lacks cohesive direction. The ‘figures’ of the title provides an intriguing wordplay device for tracking the main protagonist’s journey through a life concertinaed by magic and witchcraft.  Manuel is dominated by his desires prompting him to make unwise choices. He suffers from the rather common ailment of attainment providing less satisfaction than the thrill of the search. As usual I will not betray the story. The are five sections to the tale, each one dedicated to a different literary friend who defended him against the charge of obscenity brought against his earlier novel, Jurgen. Perhaps the stork depicted in a couple of the images below was a an attempt to avoid further controversy.

Although the author clearly has his tongue in cheek, this novel lacks the lightness of touch demonstrated in ‘Domnei’, highlighted above. As always, Papé is in tune with Cabell, and produces brilliant illustrations. There are vignettes throughout and decorations on each dedication page.

I have chosen to feature the twelve main illustrations, and would draw attention to the way in which the artist depicts perspective by lightening his line where appropriate.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb chicken jafrezi, pilau rice and vegetable samosas. I drank more of the Malbec.


Ice Art


With most of the rest of the country under snow, our little micro-climate had none, and was just minus two degrees when Jackie drove me out to the forest this morning.

Around Wootton and Wilverley Plain, the terrain and its pools felt freezing frosty fingers;

frigid ferns flickered;

fallen leaves lit and unlit lay lambent or shaded.

Trees, bracken, and lichen brightened as the sun rose above larger arboreal screens.

Dog walkers strode across the plain.

Steam spiralled from nostrils of cattle and ponies.

A fret saw had been applied to the small patches of frozen water scattered among layers of leaves and pebbles, producing delicate ice art.

The way we live now means that friends and relatives dropping in on spec is largely a thing of the past. That our niece, Danni does this periodically is therefore doubly pleasurable, because she is, of course, delightful company, and knows a thing or two about the use of computers.

We enjoyed convivial company for an hour or two and she was able to confirm that I wasn’t doing anything wrong in trying to search out receipt of a recorded delivery letter I had sent to a partner of O’Neill Patient, the solicitors who had provided such appalling service over the remortgage. Almost a month after sending the letter I had received no reply, so, this morning sent a rather shirty e-mail. The response was that they had never received the letter.

After spending the best part of half an hour on the phone to Royal Mail, I learned that the letter had never been delivered, and had neither been kept by them nor returned to me. Apologies were profuse. I then sent another e-mail apologising for the tone of my first, sending a copy of the letter, and stating that, when the recipient had read it, he would understand why I had assumed that it had been received but not reached his desk.

Later this afternoon I collected the currency from the bank and posted it to Australia.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s famed chicken jalfrezi and pilau rice. My wife drank Hoegaarden and I drank Mendoza Parra Alta Malbec 2016.

The Floating Fortress


This cold and wet morning we visited Anne at Kitchen Makers in Sway to discuss the finer points of our new kitchen construction. Next, we delivered a batch of photographs to Lal Quilla in Lymington for Raj to make his selection; then I ordered some currency from the bank. Most of the rest of the day was spent on mundane administration on my part, and necessary shopping on Jackie’s

As so often, the skies cleared towards evening and a good sunset was promised. We were not disappointed as we drove down to Barton on Sea.

The lowering sun brush-strokes on Roger Cobb’s field of stubble.

We watched the changing palette of the skies above Christchurch Bay, as gentle pastel shades,

Isle of Wight at sunset

especially over the Isle of Wight,

Sea at sunset

and in the water itself,

gradually deepened,

Sunset, silhouettes 2

throwing walkers into silhouette.

A luminous glow blazed briefly from an apparent floating fortress on the horizon, fizzling out within minutes.

This evening we dined on perfect roast chicken, roast and mashed potatoes, mini Yorkshire puddings, flavoursome mushrooms, crisp carrots and firm Brussels sprouts. I finished the Minervois.

An Annual Event


This morning I printed a batch of sample photographs from which Raj at Lal Quilla can make a selection for his wall.

These have all featured on previous posts.

At lunchtime Jackie drove us over to Shelly and Ron’s home in Walkford for the annual wreath-laying on Mum Rivett’s plot in the Woodland Burial Ground.

Jackie, Helen, Shelly, Anthony at Mum Rivett's plot

Jackie’s nephew Anthony joined me and the three sisters who laid the wreath. The temperature was cold and it rained throughout.

Afterwards we repaired to Shelly and Ron’s home, where we all spent a pleasant afternoon and early evening, together with the other two husbands. Shelly produced a wonderfully cooked dinner of roast turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes and parsnips, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, and carrots. I’m bound to have missed something here. This was followed by excellent blackberry and apple crumble with custard; and Helen’s superb trifle and cream made using some of Rachel and Gareth’s wedding cake. Red and white wines were enjoyed, after Ron’s mulled wine.

After the meal we were treated to Ron’s video of the above-mentioned wedding and a cultural trivial pursuits quiz, some of which, between us, we answered correctly.


Mediocre Meals; Men’s room Mobiles; Merry Music.


Today was one of mixed impressions. We began by setting off late this morning to visit my mother in West End. En route we stopped for lunch at

The Royal Oak, Hilltop

The Royal Oak at Hilltop, near Beaulieu.

Among the gorse along the roadside , donkeys and a pony dozed or grazed within sight of Fawley power station.

Ice and oak leaves

Ice had formed in the car park puddles, trapping some of the fallen water-bound oak leaves.

The ambience inside was good and the service most friendly.

Beer glass

However, the beer lacked spirit and was served in murky glasses suggesting there was something awry with the dishwasher. Our very young waitress apologised for this and said she would pass on my observations.

Steak & Ale Pie and Ploughman's meals

My steak and ale pie appeared to have been prepared earlier, then overheated, with the result that all the wrong bits of the meal were crispy. Jackie’s ploughman’s lacked the usual ingredient of cheese, but contained a small portion of paté, and a preponderance of pickles. The crusty bread had been put through a slicer some time before. There was no butter.


Leaving a quantity of the pickled elements on her plate, Jackie observed that “there is only so much pickle you can eat”.

I approached the till to settle the bill, wondering how I was going to do this politely. In the event, I was helped out by the not quite so young woman I took to be the manager. It is not unusual for pubs and restaurants to add what they call optional or discretionary gratuities to the bill. I always ensure that these will go to the staff before paying them. Otherwise I tip in cash and settle the rest by card. It is not usual for the person taking your money to open the conversation with the statement that you don’t have to pay this if you don’t want to. This is what this woman did. I asked her who received the money. She said the staff were the beneficiaries. I said that in that case I would pay it, because the service had been excellent, but the food was not, and I had already shown her colleague the state of the glasses.

I claimed that my meal had probably started life in a good condition but had been microwaved so that all the wrong bits were crispy. She replied that they didn’t microwave their meals, but heated them up in the oven. “In that case”, I replied, “this one  spent too long in the oven”. I didn’t think there was much point in the methods both Jackie and I learned from our mothers of putting the plate, with a lid on it, over a pan of boiling water.

I also spoke of the preponderance of pickles and other aspects of Jackie’s meal.

We won’t go there again.

Before visiting Mum, we stopped at Haskin’s Garden Centre in West End. I visited the Gents’ Toilet. There was just one vacant urinal at which I took up my station. I glanced to the left of me and noticed a gentleman scanning his mobile phone in his right hand with his somewhat extended member in the other. I glanced to the right of me. Another gentleman was similarly engaged. “Now I’ve seen it all”, I ejaculated. Two mobile phones were pocketed, and two somewhat reduced members stuffed back where they belonged. Two urinals became vacant.

I do hope that is not considered too much information.

We then spent a pleasant hour with Mum before moving on to Margery and Paul’s annual Christmas sing-song. This was as hilarious and chaotic as ever; with some very meaningful conversations taking place in the break during which well prepared tea and Margery’s legendary mini mince pies were served. Our hosts and Mary, the pianist, were in fine form as we muddled through all the old favourites.

This evening we dined on a spic pizza and plentiful fresh salad. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Minervois.