On The Verges

Today Jackie drove us to Upper Dicker and back for Poppy’s fourth birthday party. This was a gathering of young families with children who enjoyed great fun in the heat of a splendidly sunny day in Mat and Tess’s garden. There were games galore; much tasty finger food; home made Danish pastries; and a splendid birthday cake made by Tess. It was good to see Miche there and to spend time conversing with her and Becky who had both helped with the preparation the day before.

More than six hours was spent in the car.

The traffic on the A27 gave me quite a few opportunities to

the verges’ wildflowers,

detritus,

and advertising placards.

By the time we reached Beaulieu Road on our return, the low evening sun was burnishing the white cows grazing among the

glowing heather.

As usual, the cattle crossed the road willy-nilly.

While I was focussing these scenes a trio of young people waved as they drove by. They then pulled up on the verge and waved again. I suddenly realised that they wanted me to photograph them. So I did.

Later I watched the recorded highlights of the last day of the third Ashes Test match between England and Australia.

The only other nourishment we required was sparkling water.

Frisky Cattle, Somnolent Ponies

Hot, flyblown, weather has returned.This afternoon we took a short drive into the forest.

Cattle at East Boldre were surprisingly energetic in the humid heat. They travelled quickly across the moorland, interrupting their grazing with a mounting amount of head-butting.

More somnolent ponies took what shelter they could from the East Boldre bus hut. One prone grey looked as if it might be in need of the defibrillator now occupying the redundant telephone box.

The burning sun cast sharp shadows as the ponies clustered together

twitching tails as protection against

irritating insects.

Once I had returned to the car, this mare above chose to plant herself behind it. Slowly Jackie reversed to nudge her out of the way. The pony ambled round to the driver’s side and Jackie rapidly closed her window before the animal could make her objections known.

Later I listened to more of the Ashes Test match.

This evening Jackie and I joined Elizabeth and Jacqueline for dinner at The Fleur de Lys in Pilley. My starter consisted of crab and smoked mackerel; steak medallions formed the basis of my main course; treacle tart and ice cream was to follow. The service was excellent and the food as superb as ever. Elizabeth and I shared an excellent bottle of Malbec. I am past caring what anyone else consumed.

The Best Cricket Of The Day

Jackie photographed nicotiana and petunias on her way to the Rose Garden, where

she attempted to don the Festive Jewel.

Nugget is beginning to fly into the trees and shout his warning message to what we think is a distant emerging territorial rival.

“Where’s Nugget?” (7a) in this picture, taken when he dropped down to join the Head Gardener in her weeding.

The rest of the photographs are Jackie’s. Swooping on every available prey he kept her close company,

as she cleared weeds from the beds

and the stepping stones.

Having given a clue above, Jackie offers her own “Where’s Nugget?” (7)

The Assistant Photographer achieved the impossible early this morning by watching the best cricket of the day. Can you join her?

I, on the other hand, listened to BBC’s broadcast of the second day of the third Ashes Test match.

Becky and Ian returned home to Southbourne this afternoon.

This evening Jackie and I dined on succulent pork chops in mustard, brown sugar, and toasted almonds; creamy mashed potatoes: tangy ratatouille; crunchy carrots and broccoli; and tender runner beans. I drank Saint-Chinian 2016. The Culinary Queen had finished her Hoegaarden on the patio beforehand.

Ice Cream Delivery

Jackie swept liberally scattered beech nuts from the Rose Garden this morning.

Scoobie kept her company. On the Back Drive he found a fossilised rat which I opted not to photograph.

We have a liberal supply of petunias,

begonias,

and Japanese anemones.

Bees busied themselves gathering pollen, ignoring the fact that some plants remained dog-eared;

and competing for occupation of others.

Some clematises,

fuchsias,

cosmoses, and sweet peas remain in bloom.

Rose Doris Tysteman thrives in the Back Drive border.

Rosa Glauca hips hang over the colourful patio beds.

The hibiscus beside the Brick Path is really flourishing this year.

This afternoon the four of us visited the Beachcomber Café at Barton on Sea.

Gulls hung on the thermals overhead;

crows on the clifftop blinked and pecked at tissues which were eventually shredded;

children wandered;

and a fisherman angled on a breakwater

in view of the Isle of Wight and Christchurch Bay.

This was a day for ice creams.

We had become a little concerned on noticing an elderly woman alone in a wheelchair. After some time a younger woman made her way across the garden with two ice creams. She presented one to the person we then assumed to be her mother, and they sat and enjoyed them together.

After we returned home Ian and I listened to the BBC sport broadcast of the Ashes Test match first day; and watched the second half of the highlights after dinner.

Our dinner consisted of thick pork chops with mustard, brown sugar, and toasted almonds; creamy mashed potato; crisp carrots and broccoli; tender runner beans; and roasted peppers, onions and mushrooms. I drank more of the Garnacha Syrah while the others drank Wairu Cove Sauvignon Blanc 2017.

Harry Potter in Oz

Yesterday morning, before I spent the whole afternoon writing the post on The Hawk Conservancy Trust, Jackie and I followed Becky, Ian, and Scooby to the Beachcomber Café at Barton on Sea.

The angelic, ageing Jack Russel – 17 next month – earned extra Bonio rations and heaps of admiration on the day of our visit to the trust, by controlling his bodily functions for nigh on 13 hours alone in the house because of our travel delays. We searched the house for evidence of leakage or dumping. There was none. I don’t think any of the rest of us could have remained so contained

We were also proud of the fact that he showed no desire to sit at table, which could not be said for a number of younger dogs.

As usual, speckled starlings perched in a row on the fence waiting for

a sight of likely pickings.

In the evening the four of us finished off the Indian Takeaway meal from the day before yesterday. Ian drank Peroni, Jackie chose Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Garnacha Syrah.

Becky spent some considerable time battling unsuccessfully with the interface between our TV and the You View box. She did, however make it possible for us to access Players and Apps from the TV. This will satisfy us until we obtain a replacement device.

This morning she continued offering her undoubted expertise by connecting me to Skype and showing me how to make screenshots during a rather frenetic video link with Malachi, Orlaith, and Sam in Fremantle.

There was competition for books to be thrust at the screen. Sam is currently reading the Harry Potter series to Orlaith who explained that they were her brother’s books. Mal had read them all in a matter of a few weeks when he was five. He is now on the teenage spy series, Cherub, by Robert Muchamore.

Dance routines were performed to the strains of Australia’s number one record. There was some rivalry for the prime screen shot.

My two grandchildren engaged in wand sword fights.

Orlaith donned her Harry Potter outfit

and snuggled up to her Dad for her bedtime story. Then we said goodnight. They are, of course, seven hours ahead of us.

This afternoon I uploaded Jackie’s pictures from the Hawk Conservancy Trust. Here are a variety of falcons in their environment.

She photographed the crowd focussed on the vulture landing beside them;

and watching the displays,

such as Ben with his vulture,

and the bald eagle coming in to land from two miles away. The smudge on the top right of the second image is one of the first heavy raindrops that poured from the suddenly looming clouds.

This evening we dined on minty lamb burgers, creamy mashed potato, crisp broccoli and carrots, and tender runner beans. Jackie and Ian drank Hoegaarden; Becky drank Straw Hat rosé, and I drank more of the Garnacha Syrah.

The Hawk Conservancy Trust

As yesterday’s readers will know, we visited this charitable body dedicated to the preservation of birds of prey in a natural environment, but that I had insufficient time to produce the pictures.

The trust’s own website https://www.hawk-conservancy.org will give details of this marvellous resource.

During the day there are three different public displays, this first of which we missed because we were so late, and the third I missed because I needed to take a rest. Before the 2 p.m. presentation we wandered around the lengthy rows of aviaries for individual species.

Little burrowing owls were the first I encountered.

Bald eagles came next. One, preening, looked warm, fluffy and much less fierce.

There were other eagles;

Harris and harrier hawks;

palm nut vultures;

preening eagle owls splendidly camouflaged.

white headed preening vultures looking rather ragged;

others on steps;

a bateleur eagle turning its back on

a blinking secretary bird.

In the ancient wildflower meadow groups of visitors were given the thrill of dressing up and providing a living tableau of medieval residents. Two young girls pulled a plough; boys ran around with butterfly nets; a goose girl was led by her charges; a royal party engaged in a progress; bee keepers tended their hives and a pair of miniature donkeys were taken to work.

A barn owl was released to perch on a log.

Ben, who began his career in the trust as a ten year old volunteer, was at home with his vulture.

Mike, the Sarson’s falconer, displayed his skills, from releasing the bird to calling it up to replace its hood, the purpose of which is to calm the falcon. I imagine this is like a small child covering its own eyes so you can’t see it. The square frame in the first two pictures is known as a cadge, on which the hooded creature is carried to the field.

We were entertained by exhibitions of flying kites and vultures.

Speeding over the heads of the rows of spectators these birds both delighted and terrified assembled children.

As the event came to a close, the threatening clouds overlooking the final aerobatics released their load and we fled for cover.

At one point we wondered whether Nugget had arrived before us. Then we realised that the row of robins on the sleepers were it fact metal sculptures.

Backcloth

Yesterday evening I finished reading ‘Backcloth’, the fourth in Dirk Bogarde’s series of memoirs. In the 1980s, when the books were first published, I managed to miss this one which, produced by Viking, appeared in 1986. My copy is Bloomsbury’s paperback issue of 2013.

The author has further developed themes introduced in the first three books; notably his teenage and his war years, the struggles of the film industry and of ageing, If anything, his poetically descriptive prose has improved, and there is more revealing honesty.

Despite disappointments in production, I recommend this work, even to a reader who may not be familiar with its antecedents. There are, however, a few minor errors in proof-reading. The reproductions of the author’s exquisite illustrations seem to have been printed on blotting paper, and the photographs ripped untimely from the developing tray. I will not attempt to improve on them here. For £14.99 Bloomsbury should have done better – or even have omitted the pictures.

Becky and Ian had stayed overnight. As it is our daughter’s birthday we had planned to spend the day at the Hawk Conservancy Trust at Weyhill, near Andover. We were to meet Matthew, Tess, and Poppy there at 10.30 a.m.

The journey was going quite well until we hit a road diversion along single lane roads with no passing spaces. We followed, of all things, a huge Highway Maintenance truck. A combination of Diversion signs and the SATNAV sent us around a very long circle. Twice. Sometimes we were not moving at all. At one point a vehicle in front stopped and, with hazard lights on

came to a complete standstill. The driver behind us approached to find out what was happening. The stationary driver needed to be helped to pass an oncoming queue.

Eventually we found a way out of the maze. Then the SATNAV battery went flat. After a while we stopped at a garden centre where we were given confused and confusing instructions. Lost again, we stopped for further directions at a pub. It was closed. Fortunately a garage provided correct information and we arrived almost two hours late.

The rest of the day was most enjoyable and completed by an excellent meal at the Hawk Inn. My choice of main course was a rib eye steak, chips, mushroom, tomato, and salad. This was followed by Eton Mess. I drank Malbec.

I took many photographs of raptors and will feature them tomorrow. We had been without internet this morning and were back on soon after 10.30 p.m. There was neither time nor energy to deal with these this evening.