This morning I walked to Emery Down where Jackie picked me up and, after an abortive visit to a closed Highcliffe, drove us to Lyndhurst where we made a start on Christmas shopping.
Ponies were out in force today. At Seamans Corner one was scratching its nose on the wooden seat surrounding a tree. Another quietly allowed me to pass before ambling across the road.
As I passed Orchard Gate, a large house on the left on Running Hill, I greeted a young woman I had seen before, emerging with a bucket. An older version was struggling with her bicycle mudguard. Not being particularly handy I was rather relieved she hadn’t seen me walk by. When I reached the two horses in the waterlogged field I was pleased to see them tucking into fresh hay. The young woman came along with the bucket, smiled, climbed over the stile, sploshed into the waterholes, and walked across to the far side of the field. Whilst I was engaged in photographing the horses, the woman I took to be my acquaintance’s mother arrived on her bicycle. She had just had a tyre replaced and the mudguard had kept catching on it. It seemed to be allright now. She told me she was a commoner and these were her horses. She had other horses on other land. These two were Primrose and Champion. Primrose was the most beautiful example of the New Forest pony you were ever likely to see. Champion had a bit of a cough which seemed a little better today. My informant introduced herself as Mrs. Audrey Saunders. She had bought herself a Victoria Pendleton bike but couldn’t get on with it so had given it to her daughter who, it seems, is less inhibited in whizzing around the lanes.
On a bend after the left hand fork of the forded road there is a steep camber in the road which is always full of water. When walking by it is sensible to wait for any cars to pass first. The opposite side of the bend abuts a very waterlogged private drive that someone is attempting to fill with gravel. Roadmenders’ cones have been placed to prevent drivers from running over the verge, creating yet more mud. This leaves even less room for pedestrians to negotiate.
By the time we left Lyndhurst the day that had dawned bright and clear had deteriorated into a damp deluge. No doubt the pool above has reached the cones by now, for the downpour did not desist. Indeed, it turned to hail and we waited in the car outside the house until the stones stopped ricocheting off the roof, windscreen and bonnet. The clean gleaming white hailstones on the grass contrasted with last night’s black shiny wet deer droppings.
This evening we returned to Lyndhurst for a meal at the Passage to India restaurant. This was excellent, and augmented by draft Kingfisher. We were quite disconcerted by a small Oriental group consisting of two young women and a little boy. The small fellow, although not looking too unwell, coughed and spluttered all the way through his meal. One of the women seemed to be bravely keeping up a cheerful conversation whilst reclining and slowly subsiding in her high-backed chair. Her face became more and more grey-looking; her handkerchief more and more soggy; her eyes more and more glazed; her nose more and more like Rudolph’s. Since Jackie traditionally has a Christmas cold she was most relieved when our neighbours left the restaurant.