First Foals of 2021

Jackie made considerable headway with garden maintenance this morning.

After lunch she decided she had earned us a forest drive, and headed for Beechern Woods, where

we each operated our cameras from opposite sides of Ober Water.

I focussed on the rippling and reflecting stream; passing walkers; band the woodlands with their long shadows, fallen trees, and gnarled roots nurturing new ferns and grasses.

When I first crossed the bridge to reach the other side of Ober Water I noticed two of the very heavy timbers forming the structure were broken. As I approached it to recross after my ramble I noticed a man

bending over one of the beams.

This was Bob, the site manager of Aldridge Hill Campsite. He had just effected a temporary repair necessitated by a very heavy vehicle traversing the bridge. Until a permanent repair could be effected the only vehicles able to cross would be cars – thus normal delivery transport and the refuse collectors would be banned.

Bob is a very friendly character who anticipated with some trepidation the 150 bookings this facility had taken from the first day of Covid restrictions relaxation next Monday.

Jackie and I continued along the lane to Black Knowle at the other end, where,

among ponies grazing on the nearby moorland,

we distantly descried our first foals of 2021. The close-up was produced by Jackie, who had earlier also photographed

a solitary deer; gnarled oak branches coming into leaf; a fallen tree; and a mossy trunk.

Alongside Burley Road at Wilverly another group of ponies enjoyed a return to soggy ground engendered by our recent rainfall.

Before drafting this post I weeded another section of the Shady Path.

This evening we dined on a second sitting of Hordle Chinese Take Away’s excellent fare, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Malbec.

First Out Of The Traps

A heavy slate canopy kept the light dull and the rain away today.

Jackie continued her clearance work in the Pond Bed (so named because it has been laid out by our predecessors on the shallow base of a pond). She has cleared most of the invasive alliums and even enjoyed the pleasure of planting up a pot.

The Japanese maples are now freer features. “Where’s Jackie?” (7)

My task was weeding the Shady Path. Starting at the Rose Garden end I just about reached Florence sculpture, from where I could observe the

burgeoning of the rhododendron on the corner of the Palm Bed, and listen to the birdsong which had been absent yesterday.

It wasn’t exactly the song of birds that entertained Jackie – more the baby starlings clamouring for food, until their Dad, as soon as the Assistant Photographer raised her camera, sounded the alarm and all became quiet. With considerable patience, she managed a shot of the infant she thinks will be first out of the traps.

This evening we dined on Mr Chan’s excellent fare from Hordle Chinese Take Away, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Malbec.

A Curate’s Egg

I spent much of the day completing my reading of my Folio Society edition of Charles Dickens’s ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’. Much dogged determination and the illustrations of Charles Keeping were required to see me through it.

Christopher Hibbert’s informative introduction was helpful, and indicated that the author was pleased with his work.

The book was written in Dickens’s usual literary style with customary humour and descriptive powers. Somehow or other it failed to engage me, and the first section of almost two hundred pages was frankly boring. Perhaps it was that the characters introduced during this period were unlikeable, even though they were well delineated. Maybe it was the focus on scams and deception at home and abroad that was not to my liking. Although the trip to America and the unwholesome descriptions of the land and its representatives was more engaging, they were not at all flattering. Indeed they must have prompted Dickens, some quarter of a century later to write a postscript, which he insisted should be included with any future publication, as adhered to by The Folio Society, which can only be regarded as an apology, or at least a declaration of a change of heart. It seemed to me that, despite the lively narrative that interval added nothing to the story.

The creation of Mrs Gamp is comic genius, and the schemingly, smarmy, dishonest Mr Pecksniff is memorable, but it was difficult for me to raise much interest in the large number of others who were nevertheless tidily wrapped up in the final few chapters.

‘He sat quite still and silent’

‘Mrs Gamp looked at her with amazement, incredulity, and indignation’

‘A figure came upon the landing, and stopped and gazed at him’ shows Keeping’s mastery of perspective.

‘He sank down in a heap against the wall, and never hoped again from that moment’

‘Mr Tapley stuck him up on the floor, with his back against the opposite wall’

‘ ‘Dear Ruth! Sweet Ruth!’ ‘ – now it can be acknowledged.

‘Miss Pecksniff dashed in so suddenly, that she was placed in an embarrassing position’ displays the artist’s idea of the lady’s mortification. Dickens was not so graphic.

Bishop: “I’m afraid you’ve got a bad egg, Mr Jones”; Curate: “Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!” “True Humility” by George du Maurier, originally published in Punch, 9 November 1895. A “curate’s egg” describes something that is mostly or partly bad, but partly good. (From Wikipedia).

This evening we dined on more of Jackie’s sausages and mushrooms casserole ; creamy mashed potatoes; crunchy carrots; and tender runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Malbec.

Blue Haze

Jackie managed to squeeze herself into a ball to sit on her kneeling stool underneath the red Japanese maple this morning in order to dig out clumps of allium triquentrums. Don’t be deceived by the visible sunlight. I was, and went to visit Mum without a jacket. It was cold.

My mother had quite some difficulty hearing us today from behind the screen. She finds my pitch more problematic than Jackie’s higher one. She was, however, in good spirits, and got my jokes, which my wife claims takes some doing.

After lunch we took a drive into the forest.

Jackie parked beside Royden Lane and decanted me so I could photograph

the surroundings, including the sawn stump of a tree that must have blocked the road when it keeled over; a stream flowing through the woodland; and a sun-dappled field horse beside a deep dry ditch spanned by another fallen tree.

The bluebell woods on either side of Church Lane are becoming dusted with their familiar haze.

The newly surfaced lanes of East End were no deterrent to donkeys trimming the hedges.

Two windsurfers could be seen against the backdrop of the Isle of Wight from the shingle beach at the end of Tanners Lane where

a young woman stood engrossed in her mobile phone while her charge attempted to scale a post.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s flavoursome sausage and mushroom casserole; creamy mashed potato; crunchy carrots; and firm cauliflower, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Western Cape Malbec 2020.

Where’s Games

Just as she began working on the garden this morning Jackie witnessed Nugget 3rd wondering how to get down from the kitchen wall pebbledash.

She spent much of the day gathering up various items blown around the garden; retying loosened climbing plants; and redesigning the Pond Bed, while this afternoon, listening to tittering and songs from birds and the buzzing of bees, I finished weeding the Oval Path. Early this evening the sun put in its first reasonable appearance of the day, and I stumbled around the garden photographing a few current views.

This is the rest of the Oval Path

Here is Jackie’s current work on the Pond Bed and

the Brick Path. This last image should provide a clue to

Where’s Jackie? (6)

Other images include

the corner of the Palm Bed beside the Gazebo Path;

the Shady Path, which needs more work, including replacing the collapsing Ace Reclaim bench with the new wooden one we still have to assemble;

the Rose Garden where tulips are still holding the fort for the roses to come;

seedlings in the greenhouse;

and Where’s Nugget Jnr? (3) which might need bigifying.

For this evening’s dinner we enjoyed third sittings of Jackie’s splendid jalfrezi meal with the same beverages as yesterday.

Seeking A Suitable Location

Our very good friend John, who blogs as Paol Soren, has recently suggested to me that it might be a good idea to register the changing nature of our environment by photographing one particular scene or tree at regular intervals during the year. This set me thinking about a suitable location. Water should, I thought, be involved; certainly trees and other flora; and seasonal wildlife. The old quarry lake at Pilley seemed a likely candidate. Jackie and the same idea. On a sunny morning we set off there quite early.

This took us up Pilley Hill where the decorated post box now bears crocheted birds and their nesting boxes.

Significant signs of this early May in my pictures, are the unusually low water levels in the lake; the proliferation of water crowfoots floating on it; and the fresh leaves on the trees.

Long shadows were cast by the early sun, and the clear light offered crisp reflections.

Throughout my circumambulation of the lake the regular honking of a Canada goose tenant set up a marching rhythm, only to cease when

a grey pony descended the receding bank to drink. The bird then flew away.

I walked around the perimeter photographing whatever caught my eye. The images may or may not contain that with which to start my project. I would appreciate readers’ comments on whether or not this is the right area, and whether any spot would bear repeating on a regular basis. Accessing the galleries will provide titles for which choosers may opt.

The above gallery offers the general scene.

The crowfoots and these fallen branches are not contenders for the regular location, but they do add to today’s atmosphere.

The trees and their shadows will change with the seasons and their accompanying light.

There are plenty more suitable sites should this not be a popular choice.

On our return I began digging out an hibiscus planted by our predecessors too close to the Brick Path. I was soon sent inside by a heavy shower. The rain stopped before lunch, enabling me to finish the job.

If this is a fledgling robin perhaps Jackie has encountered and photographed a third generation Nugget

Our morning was the best time for an outing. Frequent precipitations throughout the afternoon included both rain and hail.

I am happy to say that this evening’s meal was a repeat of yesterday’s jalfrezi with the addition of vegetable samosas. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Fleurie.

Rugs Still Required

Belying the cold wind which did not lessen until late afternoon, the such shone between fast moving fluffy cotton clouds. A brief garden survey revealed a few broken plant stems and one smashed owl. We decided to return to the clearance work tomorrow, and go out for a drive after lunch.

Martin from Crestwood flooring visited this morning to take measurements for our next refurbishment project. I then began drafting Danni’s guest post, ‘Ella And The Bin Men’ which I posted before we went out.

We began our trip at Milford on Sea where the waves were very choppy and the wind,

against which Jackie photographed me battling, blustering fiercely.

While the Assistant Photographer was intent on catching me with gulls, I aimed to catch them frolicking on the thermals,

after which they would bask and blink in the warmth of the car park tarmac.

Across the Solent the cliffs of the Isle of Wight were in clear view, and gorse on our side tumbled down the ever-eroding cliffs beneath which painted beech huts nestled.

Small groups walked along the promenade and couples played bowls.

Just as we were leaving, Jackie photographed an oil rig far out to sea.

We turned inland and drove past roofers at perilous work along Barton Court Road.

On the Norley Wood end of Burley Road a garden encampment seemed to have taken a buffeting.

I disembarked at Braggers Lane to focus on

landscapes on both sides.

Gnarly shadows sprawled along the verges; a recently ripped branch stretched across the sward.

Riding horses occupying a field on my left still wore rugs during this period when the night temperatures are still close to zero centigrade.

Cattle on the other side lay down in a line, keeping the grass warm.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s hot and spicy lamb jalfrezi and pilau rice with which I drank more of the Fleurie. These pots contain enough for a good five meals.

Ella And The Bin Men

I am delighted to offer, from Danni Milwain, my first ever guest post: ‘Ella And The Bin Men’

I’ve been asked to write a guest blog by my Uncle Derrick, what an honour! Firstly, hello to all Derricks followers I hope our story is an enjoyable read. 

Even before March 2020 when Covid saw all of our lives change Friday mornings were something we looked forward to….. Bin day! Not only because we could say goodbye to the smelly nappies which over the summer might have been cooking away for up to two weeks but also and most preciously because we could see the bin lorry and wave to the bin men. The joy on Ellas face to see the lorry coming down the road and then the bin men throwing the bins about into the big lorry and back again was the drive to make sure we were always  ready on a Friday morning to lift her up above the window cill to have the best view. The driver was the first to spot Ella and start waving and shortly after the man who collects our bin, and then in time the man who collects from the other side of the road would join in too. 

Christmas 2020, We handed the bin men a tin of biscuits each and a card addressed to “the driver”,  “our bin man” and “the other one”. They were really pleased and after doing their usual turn in the road at the dead end came back, slowed the lorry down, waved ferociously and tooted their horn.

This became the norm thereafter, on their return journey they would always pass our house slowly, wave, smile and then head off with a little toot!

We hadn’t missed one Friday morning until last Friday 30th April. Ella simply didn’t wake up in time. I was sat on the sofa drinking my tea and I heard the lorry coming, my stomach dropped with sadness that she would miss them and them her. We didn’t even have the curtains open. For a fleeting moment I thought I could drag her out of bed but that seemed silly, should I throw the curtains open and just smile and wave on my own? Well I didn’t do that either, I know it sounds silly but I really was sad. 

Ella awoke at 7:30 just in time to throw some clothes on her and chuck her in the pram to head off for nursery. When Andy opened the front door there was a gift on the doorstep, a toy bin lorry with a note that reads “From your binmen. To our lovely friend always cheering us. Thank you”.

Well we exploded with delight at this very kind gesture, Ella was of course elated with the gift and immediately had to press every button and whizz it around. We didn’t allow her to take it to nursery but when I picked her up the first thing she said was “can I play with my bin lorry”. 

I put a post on Facebook of which you can see in the image provided and to date I received over 100 likes, loves and comments. I also received calls from BBC South today and Radio Solent. I provided a short interview with Radio Solent on their afternoon show on Friday. To be honest it all seems very strange, on one hand I’m thinking, crikey it must be a really slow news day and on the other hand I’m just so pleased it has warmed so many hearts and perhaps given three bin men a small amount of the recognition they deserve for doing an outstanding job and going above and beyond their call of duty. I think the pandemic has given us all a heightened sense of community spirit and it’s stories like this that restore our faith in humanity and the simple pleasures in life.  We are very much looking forward to seeing the binmen on Friday to say thank you  and I will be dragging Ella out of bed!

Link to radio interview:

English Bluebell Woods

Late yesterday afternoon we were both too knackered to clear up and put our tools away. The good news about today’s weather forecast is that we will be enjoying steady rain; the bad is that this will come with 60 miles per hour wind by the evening. This meant that we had to be out early this morning making our usual preparations in addition to the said clearing up.

We emptied trugs (WP you’ve got drugs on the brain) containing compostable material and buckets of alliums for bagging separately.

The trugs were then overturned to prevent their being filled with water.

Chairs were laid down gently before the wind did it ferociously.

If you biggify this second image of the scene, and examine the owl’s head you should see Where’s Nugget Junior? (2). While he was interested in what was going on he was not inclined to come any closer.

Paths were swept and hoed.

Beautiful as they are, the Weeping Birch Bed is just one that reminds us we will need to be back on the case soon enough.

Although the wind increased in ferocity we received no rain until early this evening.

Later this afternoon we drove to Keyhaven in search of windsurfers. We found none and therefore turned inland.

The rape fields off Sowley Lane are coming along well, and the oaks beginning to come into leaf.

Ponies grazed on the road ro Burley.

Cattle, blending into the landscape, foraged at East Boldre,

where some of the stumps and fallen trees have been around long enough to host lichen and frame violets.

A number of the roads in the New Forest area have been resurfaced. One of these arrives at the green sited where South Baddesley Road begins. Clearly a troop of donkeys has been engaged to maintain the grass in keeping.

Many of our English bluebells have been replaced or hybridised by Spanish imports. We have all three in our garden, but a number of our woods still contain our home grown variety. The first image in this gallery is alongside Sowley Lane; the rest along South Baddesley Road.

This evening we dined on oven fish and chips, baked beans, pickled onions, and cornichons, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Fleurie.

Weeding Continues

Today’s air was cool, dry, and largely dull.

Much of the time was spent weeding.

Jackie’s distaste for our invasive alliums is patent as she drops one into her bucket. The red railing behind her has been removed from the edge of the Pond Bed in the foreground in order to gain greater access.

My progression along the Oval Path was delayed by the number of these invaders congregating around the entrance to the Rose Garden. By lunchtime I had not achieved my target of reaching the bend at the far end.

I was, however, able to enjoy the bluebells beside me; the triumphant mating cries of wood pigeons, one of which, preening in the weeping birch, may have shed the feather photographed yesterday; the gentle trilling of the songbirds pierced by the repetitive irritating greenfinch; and the buzzing of the occasional bee.

This afternoon I dragged myself out to complete my task.

I was rewarded by the grating of my final rake attracting a visit from two robins who, nevertheless, kept their distance.

Later, I scanned six more of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ by Charles Dickens.

The tail of the horse stretching past the text in ‘Jonas fought and contended with the horses like a man possessed’ does appear in the book, but is too wide for me to scan it.

‘Mr Pecksniff interposed himself between them’ is another set of accurate portraits.

‘The good man patted Mrs Lupin’s hand between his own’. We know who he is by now.

‘Jonas set upon him like a savage’ has a great sense of movement.

‘The body of a murdered man’

This evening we dined on pork chops baked with English mustard and garnished with almonds; piquant cauliflower cheese; creamy mashed potato; crunchy carrots; and moist fried leeks, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Collin-Bourisset Fleurie 2019.