From Pastel Paper To I.T. Tools

One of the consequences of our decluttering has been the discovery forgotten pictures stuffed in a cupboard.

Forty years ago when we had no internet, no computer, no digital cameras – just pencils, pastels, paint and drawing paper; when my hand was steady and I could sit out on Tooting Bec Common,

I produced this woodland scene.

It is too big for my scanner, so I tackled the task of reproducing it to some extent on my mobile phone. This took some considerable time. I am sure someone more skilled would make a better job of it, but at least it served the purpose of forcing me to get my head around the process as far as I was able. Maybe I will render a more accurate image one day.

Early this evening Becky returned home to Southbourne, after which we dined on Jackie’s flavoursome penne Bolognese and firm broccoli with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Malbec.


The recent heavy rains have suddenly filled the drought-dried lake at Pilley. This prompted me to circumperambulate it on our forest drive this morning.

Fresh autumn leaves floated among rippling reflections or

broken limbs from their trees,

or lay visible on the shallow bed;

Mallards, glimpsed through overhanging lichen covered branches and their lingering foliage, have reclaimed their natural habitat.

Some of the leaves cluster among mini mushrooms between mossy or

exposed roots and bark flakes from fallen trees on the water-lapped banks.

This evening Jackie and I joined Shelly, Ron, Helen, and Bill at Fordingbridge for the latter couple’s church fundraising quiz night. Helen provided sandwiches, mince, pies, gala pie, crisps, salad and wine; Ron brought beer. We had a very enjoyable time with good natured competition, at which we came third.

On our journey home the steady rain accompanying our outward trip had developed into a deluge, in which the rhythmic whirring of our windscreen wipers could not clear the shield of raindrops that became twinkling stars above parallel columns of light stretched along the tarmac before the headlights of each oncoming vehicle, while our own beams illuminated the fanned curtains of spray thrown up by our wheels from pools across the road to rival the swollen lake seen this morning.

The Way To The Church

After buying provisions from Ferndene Farm Shop this afternoon Jackie and I took a forest drive while Becky and Flo, taking Ellie with them, shopped elsewhere.

On the way up Lyndhurst Road outside Burley, Jackie managed to park the Modus allowing me to walk down

the soggy verge with my camera.

I had been attracted by the moss-carpeted roof opposite the bright red cones which had not prevented a number of heavy vehicles from gouging tracks in the mud with their outsize wheels.

Over the years, we have watched the gradual disintegration of this stump still functioning as a direction indicator to the church, provided you understand that you need to take the next right turn rather than carry straight on up the hill. Observant drivers will notice that that right turn is signed Church Lane.

As I approached a trio of Highland Cattle on Wootton Common one of them bravely ran away and stared me out from a safe distance.

This evening we dined on tender roast leg of lamb; crisp roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding; firm cauliflower; crunchy carrots; piquant cauliflower cheese; and meaty gravy. Jackie drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Becky drank Diet Pepsi, and I drank Mendoza Malbec 2020.

Well Wound-Up

Here are some of the piles of patio rubble awaiting the arrival of a skip to remove them.

The low concrete wall at the perimeter will be removed and replaced by sleepers which Martin will source.

In the meantime he has focussed on the Rose Garden.

As the water fountain is powered by a solar light this was removed,


and packed away in the Head Gardener’s shed for the winter.

The Pink carpet rose is far more prolific throughout the warm months than we had imagined and has to be cut back regularly from the paths over which it spreads.

We therefore decided to risk moving it. (There hadn’t seemed much point in righting that planter while the gales still raged).

Our friend had great difficulty in carrying out this process today, since its roots spread easily as much as its branches.

The bed is now devoid of this plant, thus allowing its neighbours more space.

It now resides along the eastern fence, behind other pruned bushes.

Just before lunch I emerged, well wound-up and emotionally exhausted, from the NatWest Bank in Lymington, having spent most of the morning in there, attempting to send a small amount of Australian dollars on line. Knowing I would not be able to manage the task without help, I visited this, the only surviving branch of three within several miles of home – I only turned to On Line banking because of this paucity of places into which one could walk and speak to a real person.

The very helpful, calm, and patient, cashier was immediately available to help me through the process of achieving my object for the first time on my new Samsung Galaxy. She really didn’t mind how often I tapped the wrong keys or hit the right one a quivering second time. Eventually we got there. She warned me that I would get a call from the fraud department who would be alerted because I was using an unfamiliar device and sending foreign currency for the first time.

This happened almost immediately and my guide led me to a separate room to have the conversation. Then the wind-up began. Firstly I had repeatedly to request the agent, clearly rattling off scripts at a rate and in an, albeit English, accent which would have tested my perfectly good hearing even if she hadn’t intermittently lowered her voice; secondly I wasn’t able satisfactorily to answer all her security questions which would have required access to my files at home. And here was I naively expecting to be asked my mother’s maiden name. On two occasions she left me on hold while she consulted “a colleague”. The upshot was that they would reject the payment and advise me not to try to make the payment again. She had no answer to my question about how I was to get the money to Australia. I blew my top and said I would go back to helpful cashier. This agent knew I was still in the bank and that I had been helped in what had been my first effort at using the phone – at least I had told her, but why should she believe me?

Now, I fully appreciate that the fraud check was necessary, that the agent, who did keep apologising, was doing her best and was never rude or pushy, but what is an elderly gent to do when progress has passed him by?

The original cashier eventually carried out the process from her own computer for which I will be charged a fee. When she asked if that would be OK I said wearily “I don’t care”.

This evening we dined on battered haddock and oven chips, onion rings, baked beans, pickled onions and gherkins, with which we both drank South Point Sauvignon Blanc 2021.

All Will Become Clear

Ellie has a favourite position when clinging to her mother: she pivots her right arm inwards at the elbow and curls up the fingers behind her.

Yesterday I photographed the phenomenon.

This morning Martin removed most of the last of the patio paving and will need to hire a skip to take it all away before he can continue. Depending on the accuracy of the less than optimistic weather forecast he will carry out his normal more than simply gardening tasks tomorrow.

In the meantime I underwent an eye dilation procedure at Boots Opticians in New Milton. The purpose of this was to confirm or disprove the recent assessment about a developing cataract.

An instillation of Tropicamide increased the size of my pupils, enabling my optometrist to view the inside of my eye more easily.

Jackie was able to record this increase with her mobile phone while we waited in nearby Costa Coffee, and is therefore to be congratulated on working out how to e-mail her observations to me.

The original assessment was confirmed. I will need neither surgery nor new specs – at least until my next annual check – and was given the comforting view that “many younger people would really like [my] eyes”.

Blurred vision and temporary photophobia persisted this afternoon, but all will become clear tomorrow.

This evening we enjoyed second sittings of yesterday’s Hordle Chinese Take Away fare, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Fashions Change

The sun greeted Martin this morning as he was able to make a start on preparing the patio for repaving.

Anyone familiar with this area will know that the current sections of squared blocks, intermittently separated by such as the red tiles and troughs of slate chips and a gravel, unevenly balanced, because, as Martin discovered there is only a thin layer of sandy aggregate lying on top of soil beneath them.

First our helpful gardener dug out the loose material, with which he filled a wheelbarrow,

then, with several trips, wheeled it to a temporary location behind the shed.

Next, he tackled the pond in an old cistern, perhaps an example of our predecessors’ repurposing. Until we first cleaned it out it had been a thriving kindergarten for mosquitos. Having removed the surrounding concrete blocks ready for another trip with the wheelbarrow,

he transferred the murky water to a bucket from which he could tip it away. This enabled him to manhandle the heavy container and transport it out of the way.

No doubt probably 50 years ago someone thought the layout we inherited was a work of art. Tastes and fashions change.

I made good headway during the afternoon on John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”.

This afternoon we dined on Hordle Chinese Take Away’s excellent fare with which I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Jackie finished the Sauvignon Blanc.


Martin had been due to spend two days last week making a start on preparing the patio for repaving, but the gales made that impossible. He now plans to come for three days, starting tomorrow. Had he been due to arrive today the heavy rain and slightly less severe winds would have been no more conducive.

Raindrops created their now familiar circlets on paving pools.

I donned Jackie’s hooded raincoat and ventured out to test the waterproof quality of my Canon camera.

Before my Chauffeuse had suggested yesterday’s forest drive I had planned to photograph the various artefacts in our garden that have been subjected to the meteorological ravages, and the uses to which they have been adapted. This morning I considered that it wouldn’t matter that they were now being subjected to more of such harsh treatment.

We have found that metal garden furniture, like this rocking chair purchased from Molly’s Den, soon, despite additional coats of paint, rusts away, but still looks elegant provided it is not overtaxed. It has a few more years left in it for this extension of life as a plant pot stand.

Regular readers will know that we seldom leave the Council’s Efford Recycling Centre without having made a purchase from their Reuse Shop.

This wicker chair was one such, which served its original function for a year or two before also being relegated to a support for plant pots.

The duck perched on the chair-back was a solar light which no longer works and is now simply a water bird suitably adapted to the conditions.

Several garden lanterns also came from Efford and have been converted to containers for various items around the garden. This one really is at the end of its life.

This two seater bench from Redcliffe Garden Centre really didn’t last long until the Head Gardener reinforced its seat with bamboo stems. Despite its looks, it is now very comfortable.

We were very pleased with the bench that came from the Ace Reclaim salvage centre until that rusted away making it unserviceable for its original role, however, with the substitution for the seat of an old shelf found in the shed when we moved into this house, and with the additional support of a stack of bricks found buried in what is now the Rose Garden, it will hold a row of potted plants.

Speaking of the Rose Garden, its entrance arch lurches a bit, but is buttressed by wooden splints and supported by the stout climbing roses on its right hand side.

Even the stumperies are constructed from long dead tree stumps we uprooted a few years ago.

For our garden furniture we now confine ourselves to seasoned wood and strengthened aluminium.

This evening we dined on succulent fillet steaks; crisp oven chips and onion rings; peas and sweetcorn; baked tomatoes; and a mélange of stir fried vegetables. Jackie and Flo also enjoyed piquant cauliflower cheese, but I had no room on my plate. We repeated yesterday’s beverages – in my case that meant opening another bottle of the Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon.

Rhinefield Ornamental Drive

We had intended to photograph Beechern wood on our forest drive today. This has been one of our regular trips.

It was a shock to find a locked gate across the road forbidding access to non-members of the Caravan Site at the far end. The woman approaching the Forestry Commission gate had left the camper van and opened it for the driver. Who, I wondered, owned the road from which I have produced many photographs of woodland, ponies, and Ober Water.

We diverted to Whitemoor Pond, over which stretches this

branch with flaking bark;

a number of trees were reflected on the shimmering surface

on which fallen leaves float above the clearly visible bed.

From there we drove on to the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive along which I took

a short walk amongst others along the now soggy footpath.

Although it wasn’t at all cold, most were wrapped up, and this gentleman clearly need to raise his collar.

This friendly family were very pleased with this photograph showing their dog really straining at the leash. I could not resist asking who was taking who for a walk.

Fallen leaves clustered at the roots of trees,

even of long-dead stumps.

At Wimbledon College, we were once taught by an art master who told us that trees were never just brown. These trunks were obviously what he meant.

We are now recognising so many fallen giants in the forest that we are able to follow their journey back to the soil from which they sprung. We passed this one a few years ago when it had just been snapped by fierce winds and quickly sawn and removed from the road. Its constituents will probably outlive ours.

Over recent months my library has been taken over by items destined for charity shops and the Council Recycling Depot. This has been a losing battle as further goods have appeared as fast as we declutter – one of the consequences of an increased household with many relatives being keen to bring gifts. Now Christmas items are being added at a rate of knots. This afternoon Jackie and I cleared and organised the space so that I can once again reach individual volumes.

This evening we dined on tasty fish cakes: haddock for me, cod for Jackie, and salmon for Flo; crunchy carrots and tender cauliflower leaves; the Culinary Queen’s piquant cauliflower cheese and colourful savoury rice, accompanied by the same beverages as yesterday.

Black Swans

Our friend, Paul Soren posted a picture yesterday that I said I thought would make a good screensaver.

This morning Jackie took me on a forest drive.

We began with the woodland alongside Bisterne Close where

the soft forest floor alongside contained

dry acorn cups,

fallen branches and crisp autumn leaves,

clustered beneath long decaying trunks and branches gradually returning to the soil.

The sculptural quality of an abandoned artefact was somewhat incongruous outside one of the houses.

One of the many pools that have spent much of the summer in a parched condition now reflects neighbouring gates.

Ponies perused our passing along Holmsley Passage.

Our friend mentioned above sent me an e-mail asking me to feel free to use his picture as my screensaver and sending me a jpeg image of a black swan and cygnets somewhere outside Melbourne seen through his rain-splashed windscreen.

I now see a picture from the other side of the world every time I switch on my computer.

For dinner this evening we repeated yesterday’s fare and beverages.

Family History

With my Chauffeuse out shopping today I finished reading

The front cover of my Virago Modern Classics edition, Number 234 of 1986, shows “The Opera Cloak” by William Strang.

The back cover contains the publisher’s accurate blurb on the novel,

after the last page of which is this description of the history and aims of the ground-breaking publishing house.

Not the best known of Vita Sackville-West’s works, this is the first I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It is a very well crafted book divided into four parts each devoted to interlinking the various protagonists and their perspectives. Without spoilers I cannot better the publisher’s description.

The book having first appeared in 1932, the author’s own social background is reflected in the class of the main characters and their efforts to adapt to the conflict-inducing winds of change.

The writing is easy and fluent with a straightforward vocabulary making good use of adjectives and adverbs and conveying the meaning with careful simplicity. Vita is a mistress of sentence length, able, with appropriate punctuation to write a prolonged description or to suggest much with a short line. One example that remains in my mind is “an owl hoots in the distance”, or words to that effect (I can’t remember exactly), during a late afternoon walk in a garden. With that short phrase the writer conveys the bucolic location and the time of day, without interrupting the conversation as the evening draws in. This spareness is a characteristic of her pictures of town and country; of buildings, gardens, and landscape.

Mrs Sackville-West chronicles exchanges between people in a natural way. She has a good understanding of struggles to engage; of cultural divides; and of expressed and unexpressed views, conflicts, and ambivalences. Her characterisation is complex and revealing.

Victoria Glendinning’s introduction is well-written, knowledgeable, and informative.

With sunset due sometime after 4.00 p.m. today, and then to have descended behind the buildings of Christchurch Road, I photographed it while there was still a glow in the clear sky

and pink tinges touching the few clouds to the north-east.

Elizabeth visited today with infant bedding for Flo sent by Frances. By invitation she joined us for dinner, which consisted of well-topped pizzas, Jackie’s delicious chicken stewp, and plentiful salad, with which the Culinary Queen drank Southern Ocean Western Cape Sauvignon Blanc 2021 and Elizabeth and I drank Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2021.