Michael and Emily drove down to join us for the day.  As they are great National Trust fans, Michael having made a superb investment by subscribing to life membership at the age of nineteen, I suggested a trip to Mottisfont, a National Trust property situated just four miles North of Romsey.  Michael drove us all there and we enjoyed a day at this establishment dating from a thirteenth century priory.  Rightly famous for its walled rose gardens, there is much more to enjoy there.

We were greeted by a small bridge over a stream, the river Test, from which a number of families were throwing bread into the swirling waters.  Upon investigation we saw that trout and ducks were vying for the offerings.  Later on we took the riverside walk which had clearly inspired Kenneth Grahame to write ‘The Wind In The Willows’, incidentally one of my favourite books of all time.  The highlight, for me, of the visit to the house was the exhibition of E.H.Shepard’s illustrations to that wonderful novel.  In an exhibition case, among other editions, was one sporting Arthur Rackham’s marvellous work.

Although the roses were clearly past their best, it was apparent that the walled gardens were a wonderful display, still featuring many different species, still blooming.  Buddleiae were attracting a range of butterflies and bees.

During the visit to the house itself, Elizabeth was being sold a raffle ticket in one of the rooms.  As I approached the desk, I realised I would be invited to buy one myself.  I don’t believe I have ever won a raffle in my life.  I hate selling tickets.  In fact, if an organisation I am involved with sends me a book of tickets to dispense, I buy them all myself.  I still never win.  So I look the other way when I am expected to buy someone else’s.  This time there was no avoiding it.  I sidled up to Elizabeth, looked as if I belonged to her, and glanced from the volunteer sales assistant to my sister, in a proprietorial way, hoping to indicate that I was with her and her ticket would cover us both.  It worked.  I was unsolicited.  Michael, who had followed minutes later, was not so fortunate.  You never know, one of them may collect the £10,000 first prize.  Then I will feel I’ve missed out.

Tree bark, Mottisfont 9.12

We really did pick a gorgeous autumn day for our visit.  The light was superb and the temperature was warm.  As we entered the building we passed a knot garden which had been planted in a most suitable arrangement in this year of the Queen’s 60th. Jubilee celebrations, the football World Cup, and the London Olympics.  Jackie was upset by the sight of one particular weed in the arrangement, and therefore pleased to see it extracted.

When we returned to The Firs I immediately began the preparation of a sausage and bacon casserole.  Jackie and Danni rendered invaluable help with the vegetables.  As is often the case, I was quizzed about ingredients.  The mention of green cardamoms took us back ten years.  It has long been a tradition that I produce a Boxing Day curry with the left over turkey or other unfortunate bird that has graced our Christmas table.  When Oliver was about five, I forgot to mention that the meal contained this particular spice.  Oliver bit into one and promptly threw a tantrum.  He rushed out of the room, to be persuaded back in by Jessica.   I had to explain and apologise.  Eventually he calmed down, the offending items were removed from his plate, and we continued to enjoy the meal.  The next year we again enjoyed Gramps’s curried turkey.  Soon after we began, Oliver asked: ‘what were those green things we had last year?’.  I told him.  ‘Can I have everybody’s?’, he asked.  Donations were readily given.  He promptly and proudly ate the lot.

This evening, the casserole was followed by Jackie’s apple crumble.  A variety of red wines were drunk, except by one of us who had Hoegaarden.


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