Battering

An overall pale gunmetal grey cloud curtain remained closed throughout the day, although threatened drizzle desisted.

For the last few stormbound days we have been thwarted in our bid for a joint tour of the garden in which Jackie could point out her recent plantings. We aimed to manage it this morning, but most of the new flowers had lost their petals and almost all had received a battering.

Here are some examples from our more established flowers.

In the event Jackie carried out trimming and planting, while I, in the company of a few intrepid little tweeters trying their Twitter accounts, cleared floral invaders from one of the minor walkways through the Rose Garden beds.

Probably to the liking of woodlice and other wrigglers slithering to safety, the path was far too clarty to sweep clean.

This afternoon I scanned Nigel Lambourne’s illustration ‘Natalie was standing in the same posture … ‘ to Anton Chekhov’s story “The Wife”, which I finished reading yesterday evening.

I have to say I found this tale, of a couple locked in a marriage relationship in which they could neither communicate with each other nor completely escape, grim and unrewarding. We have the author’s fluid, penetrative, writing which holds the interest, but, without revealing too much, I find the accommodating conclusion less than hopeful. I concur with translator Elisaveta Fen’s observation that ‘Isorin’s transformation may not be entirely convincing psychologically’ – indeed I don’t think it is at all – ‘but his inner insecurity and the gradual crumbling away of his ‘defences’ are subtly observed.’

I was left thinking that this story would have worked very well as the pivot of a longer novel, but that is, of course, not the author’s chosen genre.

This evening we dined on more of Jackie’s wholesome cottage pie with extra fried potato topping and fresh vegetables. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon

A Dreich Dundee Day

Cowering trees swayed before the breath of the Big Bad Wolf raging overhead huffing and puffing in his attempts to blow down little pigs’ houses; pattering trotters tripped across the roof; bejewelled yet disconsolate blooms bent their weeping heads; precipitate rivulets raced down the window panes, as we awoke to a pleasantly cooler bedroom breeze succeeding last night’s heavy humidity.

Jackie braved an early supermarket shop in this weather, which did not desist throughout the day, so

apart from those photographs produced during a brief period while I was unloading the shopping and soaking my shower-proof coat anyway,

the rest of these rain-spattered images were gained through panes of glass. As usual, individual titles may be gleaned by clicking on any image to access either of the galleries.

Elizabeth joined us for tonight’s dinner which consisted of Jackie’s succulent cottage pie; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; tender cabbage, and meaty gravy, with which the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and my sister and I drank Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2020.

“He’s After Us, Mum”

Today’s welkin canopy was a dismal, leaking, colander riddled with humid vapour.

At mid-morning we drove to Hockey’s Farm Shop for brunch in their re-opened café.

The recently completed thatched roof across the road in Gorley Lynch bears effigies of a fox stalking a row of ducklings following their mother along the crown of the roof. The little one bringing up the rear turns and surely must be alerting mother with “he’s after us, Mum”. She, however, carries on regardless, well aware that he will never catch them.

The shallow stream flowing over the ford at Ibsley bore glassy reflections, and

a drinking pony which, having tempted me out of the car, lifted its head, took one look, and calmly ambled off up the hill.

The longer Chekhov story I read this afternoon uses its division into 8 short chapters to vary the settings and to focus on different relationships of the main protagonists, much like the acts in a play – in this case a tragedy. I will try to review the work without giving away the details of the tale.

Normally translated as ‘The Grasshopper’, Elisaveta Fen, our translator, has opted to call this ‘The Dragonfly’, because she sees the flighty young female lead as ‘a dragonfly darting about between flowers in pursuit of its prey’.

Essentially we have a struggle between the calm common sense of science and the more immediate attractions of art. Fen offers the opinion that this is ‘exceptional among Chekhov stories in that the ‘artistic’ milieu……is portrayed with a hint of acidity, not to say maliciousness, which suggests a degree of personal grudge against the ‘artists’, who all but ignore the existence of the ‘scientists’, including doctors of medicine, and seem to hold them in contempt.’

This is how illustrator Nigel Lambourne has pictured ‘ ‘Dymov,’ Olga told him, ‘You reject both music and painting’

The narrative is well crafted with deceptively simple language conveying vivid descriptions of place, surroundings, and personnel.

This evening I finished the jalfrezi meal with more of the Cabernet Sauvignon, while Jackie enjoyed egg, chips, and onion rings with the last of the rosé.

A Lesson In Economy

I find it easier to photograph white, pink, or red flowers in diffused light. That is why I paused before entering the car for our trip to visit Mum this morning to photograph the prolific white abundance of Félicité Perpétue and the pale and deeper pink roses over the porch.

We visited my mother in the garden at Woodpeckers. Whilst waiting for her to be wheeled out to join us I focussed closer than last time on the splendid colour of the beautifully kept borders, containing, amongst others,

cultivated aquilegias; marvellous mauve geraniums; clusters of allium puffballs fit for ’80s dresses; perfectly produced roses; and shapely white lilies.

Plants in larger pots are strategically placed, as is a resting flowerpot woman.

Mum is no longer able to walk at all, but is content to sit comfortably, despite missing her mobility. Unusually, although her recent recall is quite good, she is currently struggling to remember details of long ago.

What she does does remember from the past is procedural processes which have become automatic.

What do you do when, aged 21, with two small boys, and a husband fighting in France, you leave Leicester for London to find rented accommodation to be near your in-laws; it is 1944 and everything is rationed, and will be for the next decade, by which time there will be five children; women didn’t work outside the home, and the family were living on a van-driver’s salary?

If you have the intelligence and the internal resources, you economise – you make all the family’s clothes and you cut essential expenses where you can.

Mum needs fairly constant use of a tissue for her nose. This morning she came out without any. Jackie returned to reception to ask for some, and came back with a stack of generously-proportioned serviettes. No way will Jean Knight use the whole of one of these even to catch her dinner.

They have to be divided into four. Normally, as she did with dressmaking patterns during my early years, she cuts them into equal squares. There were no scissors on hand here so, before she allowed herself a sniff she had to manage the process with her arthritic fingers. The rest will be squirrelled away to be quartered in her room.

I have some of these ingrained procedural memories, too. If I don’t use a generous restaurant serviette I pocket it to add to Mum’s stash. My youngest children were amazed that I ate bread that they would consider stale. Well, while still in primary school I would be sent to buy yesterday’s bread because it was cheaper and lasted longer, as were bags of broken biscuits on which Chris and I spent our bus fares.

I will probably never get to the end of my drawer of scrap paper only used on one side, and I still have a button box that Mum is the last person to have used.

Later this afternoon Elizabeth popped in for a chat and stayed to dinner which was more of the same as we had enjoyed yesterday. Jackie drank more of the rosé while my sister and I drank Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2019.

Antipodean Arboreal Delights

I began the day by reading three more of Anton Chekhov’s short stories and scanning one illustration.

In her introduction to ‘Kashtanka’ (1887) Elisaveta Fen quotes a letter from Chekhov’s friend, the poet Polonsky, who wrote ‘the ending is not only unexpected but also significant, and this is most important. The colour of the language fully corresponds to the place, time and character of your protagonists.’

I will say no more about this finely crafted tale except that it is told from the, especially olfactory, perspective of a mongrel dog; and that the significance of the unexpected ending is, to me, that early attachment, despite abuse, is often paramount – in humans as well.

The next two tales benefit from the author’s medical qualification and practice.

‘The Enemies’ (1887) features a scene in which someone has just died as described by one who, as a physician, knows just how it could be. Fen says ‘Its atmosphere is conveyed with economy of detail, the impact of which on the reader’s imagination is the greater for this.’ Chekhov conveys the immediate impact of grief, with an understanding of psychology, whilst allowing that this will subside over time. The mutual hatred of the enemies, each from a different class, is ultimately extended to all other members of their respective classes. Such divisions still hold good today.

‘Varka steals up to the cradle and bends over the baby’ illustrates ‘Sleep. . . sleep’ (1888), which Chekhov himself apparently did not rate too highly.

I have to agree with the translator that ‘the story is a remarkable example of ability to identify with a young peasant girl, driven half-insane by deprivation of sleep, and to describe the visions that drift through her mind – visions and memories which, in a few sentences, paint the whole of her background, making this story a minor masterpiece.’ The effects of mental exhaustion are conveyed with personal and professional insight giving the author a highly developed capacity for empathy. I imagine there will be many, confined by Covid lockdowns to high-rise flats with no gardens, who identify with this.

This afternoon, while Jackie watered thirsty plants, I, accompanied by the soothing burble of the water feature, weeded

the final arm of the Rose Garden Brick Paving,

leaving three sets of stepping stones still to be cleared. I left the broom propped on the wooden chair in the shady corner.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious lamb jalfrezi and savoury rice, with which she drank more of the Salento Rosato and I finished the Fleurie.

We began our drinks on the patio where, while we watched a preening wood pigeon, we were joined by the lonely collared dove which lost its mate to a predator earlier in the year.

We could also see that three of our Antipodean Arboreal Delights are now blooming simultaneously. The cordyline Australis has a heady honeyed scent that pervades the garden; the yellow bottle brush plant attracts bees, one of which, with a filled sac, is homing in in the picture; and the eucalyptus flowers take on the guise of little furry creatures.

Chekhov Stories

On an even hotter day today we started gardening even earlier.

While Jackie concentrated on tidying and watering,

despite the efforts of another dislodged and overhanging climbing rose, I

cleared another arm of the Rose Garden of weeds.

Just before lunch, Mark and Rob, two of Aaron’s team, arrived to set about the Back Drive. Mark pruned the hawthorn and Rob began the weeding.

A typically insightful post from josbees sent me back to reread

Nigel Lambourne’s frontispiece, ‘ ‘I followed Zinochka stealthily and saw …’ ‘ is suitably enigmatic.

The cloth boards and spine are printed with the artist’s images. The spine is rather faded, and a little spotty, but it is almost 50 years old.

Zinochka and the young boy feature in ‘Hatred’ (1887). Elisaveta Fen, in her introduction states that ‘the tale, told by a middle-aged man reminiscing about an incident in his childhood’ displays the author’s ‘seemingly effortless penetration into the mental processes of a small boy…..’conveyed with great economy and as convincingly as his more detailed analysis of the psychological states of characters in his later stories’. I would agree with these observations, but am left wondering why the adult heroine maintained hatred for her young brother-in-law for spilling the beans about what he had seen. I am reminded of a charismatic late lifelong friend of mine who inspired either love or hatred and once said to me that he didn’t mind which people felt, as long as they did not find him boring. Did Zinochka feel two sides of the same coin?

‘The girl curled herself up in the case’ illustrates ‘A Romantic Adventure with a Contrabass’ (1886). I would agree with Fen’s opinion that ‘It’s humour is light and gentle, characteristic of Chekhov in a playful mood’.

I will feature more as I work my way through the book.

Late this afternoon we drove to Pilley lake for our roughly weekly record photos. From both sides the further receding is apparent; for the second of the two shots across the reflecting lake I shifted the viewpoint to take in the foxgloves and the brambles.

On the moorland at East Boldre the cattle mostly sat and chewed the cud, while the ponies stood and grazed or chewed each other’s necks.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delightful savoury rice; prawns of the tempura and hot and spicy variety; and tandoori chicken tikka, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Fleurie started a couple of days ago.

Sweet Summer Wine

Today was even hotter than yesterday, so we began gardening early once more.

The sweet smelling rose Summer Wine shares the entrance arch to the Rose Garden with the white Madame Alfred Carriere.

One of the casualties of the recent gales was that a number of stems of the sturdy climber were ripped from their ties, and fell across the bed beneath it, seeming to form part of Festive Jewel. Although it then enhanced the bed, our task today was to prise it from its resting place and encourage it to rejoin its thornless French partner.

I was, of course, definitely the under-gardener in this project, essentially employed to hold the ladder and keep stems in place until secured. Not only that – someone had to record the event.

This is the final result. The Head Gardener assures me that all will soon fall into the proper place.

Naturally I took the opportunity to photograph other blooms such as Mum in a Million, gladioli Byzantium, feverfew, foxgloves, and Erigeron in the first of these images; bright red Love Knot and more muted Alan Titchmarsh in the second. The rose named for our popular gardening expert also appears in the final picture in the gallery.

Here is another foxglove for which species it has been a good year. Lidl name their plants quite simply – the second picture is called a white climber.

Special Anniversary appears in the background behind Absolutely Fabulous and a few aquilegias.

Other white roses include Jacqueline du Pré and Winchester Cathedral.

We inherited this pink climber towering above the Rose Garden Arbour, and Paul’s Scarlet which shares the Wisteria Arbour. Jackie planted the blue solanum.

Peach Abundance is in the Oval Bed just outside the Rose Garden.

A wood pigeon silently lurked in the shadows,

while the buzzing bee’s activities somewhat impeded the pruning operation.

The healthy buds of stems either broken or sacrificed to the secateurs found their way to the accident pot.

I had intended to continue weeding the brick paving later, but decided it was too hot and watch England’s football match against Croatia instead.

This evening we dined on oven fish and chips with onion rings and peas, to which Jackie added a pickled onion and I, cornichons with chillis. We both drank Salento Rosato 2019.

I Hoped Not

Given the forecast (accurate) of the very hot day we gardened in the morning.

My contribution was weeding the central brick paving of the Rose Garden,

where, later, Jackie took a break sitting in the shade.

This afternoon my Chauffeuse drove me into the forest. A parliament of rooks was held beneath a dead tree alongside

Mill Lane, where walkers, cyclists, and motorists were to be seen. In fact many visitors were about this afternoon, so we kept away from the more popular areas.

A cricket match was under way at Burley. Jackie opined that one of the bowlers reminded her of me in my youth, which she described as tall and skinny. Having watched his action, I replied that I hoped not.

The only livestock out in the sunshine today appeared on Wootton Common.

A small Highland cow nibbled at the verge, with its crop of

buttercups, daisies, and ferns.

A while ago I had photographed a heron beside birches in the middle distance. Today I spotted

a bovine trio in the same place.

Remembering the heron and realising that there was concave dip beside the tree, I wondered whether I might find cattle in a pool. My reflection was rewarded.

A pony mare grazed on the sward, hoping to build herself up enough to satisfy her nearby foal.

The usual two little Shetlands accompanied a group of their larger equine cousins.

Early this evening we continued emergency watering which Jackie had been doing on and off all day.

We then dined on spicy meat feast pizza with plentiful fresh salad. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Doom Bar.

The Rebellion

Having now completed my reading of Charles Dickens’s “Nicholas Nickleby”, I scanned the last four of the dramatic and insightful Charles Keeping’s illustrations from my Folio Society edition of 1986.

‘They pressed forward to see’

‘ ‘Come,’ said Tim, ‘let’s be a comfortable couple’

‘The rebellion had just broken out’

‘One grey-haired, quiet, harmless gentleman’

Christopher Hibbert’s informative introduction puts this book – one of his earliest – in the context of the author’s life and times. Despite the campaign against the sadistic, exploitative, Yorkshire schools there is much of Dickens’s witty humour in this story of tragedy, romance, and mystery. It is so well known as to need no further comment from me.

Throughout this series Keeping’s drawings speak for themselves.

This afternoon, in order to make inroads into the weeds piercing the Rose Garden Brick Paths, I tore myself away from the Test Match commentary until after the tea break.

Here are two images from before my efforts;

and two scraped out and swept.

Jackie continued with much tidying and planting.

This evening we dined on pork chops coated with almonds; crisp roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding; crunchy carrots; firm cauliflower and broccoli, with tasty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Collin-Bourisset Fleurie 2019.

At The Tea Interval

On a drab, drearily dull, day I tuned into the start of the second cricket Test Match between England and New Zealand, and scanned eight more of Charles Keeping’s excellent illustrations to Charles Dickens’s ‘Nicholas Nickleby’.

In turning ‘Nicholas found Bray lying on the floor quite dead, and his daughter clinging to the body’ upside down, Charles Keeping has given the image an additionally morbid perspective.

‘Mrs Nickleby would draw up a chair and run through a great variety of distracting topics in the most distracting manner possible’

In ‘Some of the neighbours threw up their windows and called across the street to each other’ the artist has sprawled across two pages, symbolising the crossing of the street.

‘As they stole further and further in, the old hag and Squeers were busily occupied with their tasks’ gives Keeping the opportunity to display perspective by having the foreground figure burst from the frame.

‘With eyes almost starting from their sockets, and in a fit of trembling which quite convulsed his frame, Smile was shrieking to him for help’

Keeping’s trademark dog in the street appears in the foreground of ‘To Gride’s house Ralph directed his steps, now thoroughly alarmed and fearful’

‘Ralph sat down, pressing his two hands upon his temples’

‘ ‘That’s my own brave Kate!’ said Nicholas, pressing her to his breast’

During the cricket tea interval and for a while afterwards I cleared and transferred to the compost bins some of Jackie’s weeding refuse, then wandered around with my camera.

Jackie continued planting hanging baskets and other containers

on the patio.

Other views include those beside the wisteria and along the Shady Path, where, beyond the shot containing the Arthur Bell rose,

a red climber stands over a spanning wooden arch;

the peeling bark of the eucalyptus; from Margery’s poppies through the Cryptomeria Bed; and

the Rose Garden, including

pink Mum in a Million, peach Flower Power, white Winchester Cathedral, yellow Crown Princess Margareta and Absolutely Fabulous, red and pink For Your Eyes Only, white Kent carpet rose, and pink Festive Jewel.

This evening we dined on succulent lemon chicken and roast potatoes; crisp Yorkshire pudding; firm carrots and broccoli, with tasty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Cotes de Gascogne.