Flurries of snow occasionally accompanied me as I walked this morning to the Royal Oak at Fritham, where Jackie met me for lunch, then drove me back home via Fordingbridge, in time for the kick off of the Wales versus Italy rugby match on television.
On the other side of the A31, I eschewed the cycle track, and, taking some guidance from telegraph poles I had noticed two days ago, struck out across the heath, following pony trails. The rumpled mud across the flinty terrain was still hard, and ice still crackled underfoot, which was just as well in some spots. When water was trickling downhill it was rather marshy. Otherwise bracken and desiccated droppings provided a soft carpet. I passed some groups of ponies on the open stretch, and soon after I reached the road to Fritham a string of them decided to cross the road and held up the traffic. Having walked by the side of the road for a while, I too crossed over and took a diagonal towards Fritham.
The plateau at the top was rather breezy and snow was more consistent, although not enough to settle. Concrete strips on this flat area, seeming to go nowhere, are all that is left of a Second World War aerodrome. I was struck by how much narrower these landing areas are than those of today. Two days ago I scoured the hoofprints for a representation of the Olympic rings. Today I had forgotten about this. Suddenly I looked down and there it was. That seems always to be the way. In the 1970s I occasionally cycled to work in Harrow Road from our flat in Soho. One day one of the tyres was punctured. I didn’t have a suitable lever. Whilst I was bent over struggling to remove the tyre with my fingers, I looked down into the gutter. There was a teaspoon. In a central London street. Just the job.
I would like to be able to say that I did not take a wrong turning in the sprawling village, thus adding an unnecessary mile to my journey, which in any case ended at the top of a hill. Unfortunately I cannot. I therefore arrived half an hour late, subjecting Jackie to the embarrassment of trying to keep a table in a pub which was heaving with adults in walking gear, their children, and soggy panting dogs, many of whom had nowhere to sit.
We each ate a Ploughman’s lunch. Jackie had Peroni and I drank Ringwood’s Best. The return drive, mostly on B roads, was picturesque.
The first rugby match, in very wet conditions, was naturally a bit scrappy. Wales won. A totally different game at a dry Twickenham made for a frighteningly physical fast-paced contest. For the first three quarters of the game France were unrecognisable from the team that had lost their first two matches, but they fell away after some key players were substituted. England won by ten points.
Our evening meal was Jackie’s rich liver casserole accompanied by Montpierre reserve sauvignon blanc 2012 for her and Saint Emilion grand cru 2010 for me.