We found the password for BT Yahoo, so I was able to get direct access to the Internet on my Apple. This didn’t last. I kept being informed that the password was incorrect. It was perfectly adequate the first time.
So I went for a walk. Down to the village hall; right past Furzey Gardens; up to the remnants of Stoney Cross; under the A31; straight across heathland to a road junction; right to Fritham where Jackie met me.
The temperature had plummeted and a bitterly cold East wind was getting up. I really had to keep up a brisk pace and was regretting not having worn a topcoat when I stopped to talk to a sheep farmer. We stood for a while, each trying to rub life into our hands. Interestingly, he, too would warm up after half an hour. Unfortunately neither of us had yet done the required amount of exercise. After passing Furzey Gardens this road becomes very rough, full of holes, and usually muddy. This morning, like the criss-crossing trails of various hoofed animals on the other side of the A31, the mud was frozen and therefore much easier to negotiate. Iced over pools crackled underfoot.
The path across the heath was a wide cycle track broadened by the cropping of ponies whose aforementioned hoof prints made numerous patterns involving overlapping rings. I tried in vain to find a perfect Olympic symbol. There were plenty of droppings interspersed with the prints, but it was not until the track turned right on meeting its junction with the road to Fritham, that I actually met any animals. First I encountered Eyore, Winnie the Pooh’s assinine friend, who tore himself away from his gorse to stare at me gloomily, and was not prepared to budge from his advantageous position. This was quite unlike the pair of magpies that flew from their lofty perch at my approach. The terrain was cropped smooth and other donkeys and ponies were feasting on the prickly yellow-flowering shrubs. The wind up here, with no trees to take the edge off it, was fierce.
Lining either side of the road at Fritham were a number of the smallest ponies I have yet seen. One looked like a cuddly toy having curled itself into a ball, bounced out of its small owner’s bed, and rolled out into the open for a taste of freedom.
‘Where shall I meet you?’, Jackie had asked. ‘It’ll only be a small place’, I’d replied. ‘We’ll find each other. I’ll stand in the middle of the road if I have to.’ As I did, in fact, stand in the middle of the road at a junction into Fritham, bitterly (as in freezingly) regretting this statement, I began to wish I could have been more specific. What I hadn’t realised was that this was a much larger village than the few buildings nestled around me. Jackie had quite sensibly gone to the Royal Oak first. But, being quite accustomed to being a search party of one, she tracked me down, thawed me out, and drove me back to the pub where she enjoyed Peroni and I did Ringwood Best until time for lunch which was ham and barley broth, and mixed gammon and cheese ploughman’s respectively. This hostelry probably well deserved the Good Beer Guide’s award for Hampshire’s country pub of the year. Apart from the excellent ales and food there are some really good local oil paintings on the walls. There is far more seating outside than in, but today all the customers were inside as near as they could get to the log fires.
After lunch we travelled by car to Ringwood for shopping, then on to Helen and Bill’s for a brief celebratory visit on Helen’s birthday. Incredibly, we were unable to find strip lighting in Ringwood and had to go to Hedge End Home Base, in quite the opposite direction, to make our purchase of these.
We are so well sited alongside the A31 just before it joins the M27 going East, that it is easy to forget that it has cut the forest down the middle. This major east/west route enables us to cover distances in short spaces of time unheard of in London. The road to Fritham bears one reminder of the damage to communities that seems to have been the price. The signpost to Fritham also bears a sign to Stoney Cross. If you follow this you just come to the A31 onto which you must turn right and travel to the Cadnam roundabout before you can come all the way back to a few buildings which you could easily miss. There are signs in Minstead bearing the same legend. What I have, in my second paragraph, called the ‘remnants of Stoney Cross’ are a few houses, a garage, and a Little Chef, which is all I have been able to find. Maybe other properties were demolished to make way for the road. Cadnam, although a larger place, appears to have suffered the same fate. Nevertheless, we were able to drive backwards and forwards from Ringwood to Hedge end in search of a few strip lights. So how can I object?
This evening Jackie produced an excellent meal of stir fried chicken in chilli and black bean sauce; with egg fried rice; followed by bread and butter pudding and evaporated milk; and accompanied by a shared bottle of Lamberhurst Estate Bacchus Reserve 2011.