Covent Garden & Gerrard Street

Last night I finished reading Christopher Harvie’s ‘Revolution and the Rule of Law’ in The Oxford History, and began H.G.C. Matthew’s ‘The Liberal Age’.

Soon after midday I walked through the farm underpass, into the forest alongside the wire fence that surrounds the pasturage, and, crossing the sandbagged ford followed the stream for a while, traversed it, and walked back along the other side.  Regular readers will know that this demonstrates a certain, almost well-placed, confidence somewhat lacking in the past.

Castle Malwood Farm

Castle Malwood Farm has always been visible from quite some distance, but I didn’t previously know what I was looking at, and one wire fence was the same as any other.  Now it and the sandbags are an infallible guide.

In my less than wholly successful attempts to avoid the boggy bits, and the necessary detours around fallen trees, I had a few diversions, but I always knew where I was.  Almost.  I have to confess one nasty moment when I realised the buildings I was headed for were not the aforesaid familiar farm.  I had unwittingly begun to follow a tributary and realised that what I was looking at were the also, sadly, familiar dwellings of Brook.  A quick turn around and I headed through the trees to the line of the stream which I will call Malwood.

Dappled stream

When I took my driving test in 1966 I felt the jolt of the kerb as I demonstrated my skill in reversing around a corner.  My calmness in stopping at the touch, straightening up, and doing it again got me through.  So it was today.  No panic, just go back and pick up where I left off.  I sometimes wish I could always remember that.

Dappled Forest

When walking beneath the trees on a day blessed with dappled sunlight, one is treated to little circles of light that have penetrated the boughs, projecting the images of leaves they have passed on their way down.  This particular camera obscura has not been provided with a focussing ring.  Dappled log

In the olden days of the 1970s and ’80s, when one had to use chemicals and an enlarger to make photographic prints, I would place the negatives in the device, sharpen the focus, expose the image on the paper for the requisite amount of time, take it out, stick it in various baths of stuff, and hang it up to dry, like David Hemmings in the superb 1966 cinematographic film ‘Blow-Up’.

Matthew and Becky c1979One such piece of work was a favourite photo of Matthew and Becky taken around 1979.  I could be more precise if I were prepared to search for the negative, but my print slipped down in its frame some years ago, and I thought if I photographed that today I could kill two birds with one stone and also centre the picture with an application of fresh adhesive.  That’s my excuse anyway.  Our children loved to spend their pocket money during their visits in the Soho years in the Chinese bookshops in Gerrard Street and the craft markets of Covent Garden.  In this particular photograph they are deliberating their purchases from a craftperson’s stall.

Matthew's Dads Day cardThe Gerrard Street shops in those days were Aladdin’s Caves for children.  Very good hand-made cards were on sale for a matter of pennies.  They would spend hours simply enjoying the ambience.  I still have a Dads Day card Matthew sent me.

The favourite outlet had a fascinating window with, usually pastoral, scenes featuring such as running streams framed with a glass front.  I don’t know how it was done, but the water actually seemed to flow, and movement was also imparted to other elements in the tableaux.  I was standing watching one of these one evening when an Oriental gentleman stood alongside me, equally fascinated.  ‘Devilish clever, these Chinese’, I uttered.  Fortunately he saw the joke.

I spent a very enjoyable evening with Maureen and John who live at number 5.  We talked about many things, and found we had much in common career-wise.  The plan had been that I would give them the benefit of my experience of France, but we moved beyond that.  Maureen provided a smoked salmon starter, followed by succulent steak in pepper sauce and crunchy apricot crumble with ice cream.  Bergerac and Bordeaux wines were an excellent accompaniment.

The Soho Festival

In The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain this morning I finished reading Paul Langford’s ‘The Eighteenth Century’, and progressed to begin ‘Revolution and the Rule of Law’ by Christopher Harvie.

It was a beautiful balmy day as I walked the two fords loop peaking at Forest Road. Radio mast Sheep grazed against the backdrop of a mast that is the reason we are so fortunate with internet and mobile phone signals where we live.  An uninterrupted reception is rare in the New Forest.  I was later to appreciate just how lucky we are.

Horses through gap in hedge

Through a gap in the hedge on Furzey Gardens road could be seen a horse favoured with a fly sheet.  Perhaps its uncovered companion stayed close for shelter from the pestilential insects.

As I Ieft the first ford and was about to veer left towards Newtown, I fell in with a tall, elegant, lively, and attractive South African woman named Yolanda, and her elderly dog, Trigger.  She was making her way to her place of employment at the far end of the bridle path.  I chose to change my route and accompany her.  Yolanda is a freelance live-in companion for elderly people.  We naturally spoke about Social Work.  She has no signal where she is living.

A golden labrador that now ignores my passing, barked with intent through gaps in its fencing.  It clearly wasn’t Trigger happy.  Being hard of hearing, Yolanda’s old boy quietly ignored the noisy young whipper-snapper.

I was delighted to note the name of the house in which my conversationalist was working.  Two days ago, a district nurse, driving up and down Running Hill, had asked me if I knew Skymer.  She was the person I had been unable to direct on that day, and was a long way from her goal.  SkymersThere, today, at the entrance to the splendid house at which we had stopped, was the sign, Skymers.  Yolanda confirmed that the nurse had indeed arrived, but it had taken her a long time to find the place.

To cap this I was able to achieve 100% success rate in my traffic directing role.  As two separate drivers waited their turn for my information, one for Tom’s Lane and the other for Furzey Gardens, the man who had kindly deferred to an elderly woman, said, with a smile: ‘You’ve got a queue’.

It was not until I worked on the Ondekoza photographs yesterday that I realised the large Romeo and Juliettas for the Soho Festival cigar smoking contest had coincidentally been provided by a supplier called Knight.  The idea was that you smoked one of these lengthy monsters for as long as you could without losing the ash.  When I entered in 1977, I actually had the longest ash, but mine was bent. Derrick cigar smoking competition 1976 I came second to a woman whose was straight.  You can imagine the ribaldry that provoked.

When we lived in Horse and Dolphin Yard during the 1970s this was a new and popular event, and, held in September usually enjoyed perfect weather. Punch & Judy audience, Soho Festival, 9.76 (1) A Punch and Judy show in 1976 gave entertainment for all ages. Beccy, Soho Festival 9.76 (3) copyOne photograph I took of the audience featured on the cover of the Social Care Association’s monthly magazine.  Becky, on this occasion, was distracted from the puppets by the sight of my lens.  A little boy nearby, was engaged in that familiar comforting exercise of thumb-sucking combined with ear-twiddling.  Another had lost one of his front incisors.

The first family member to have the courage to enter a spaghetti eating competition was Michael.

Michael, spaghetti eating, Soho Festival 9.75 copyAs the dry spaghetti was ladled onto his plate, he looked as if he was about to bite off more that he could chew.  The thin coating of tomato sauce, looking no more appetising than ketchup, didn’t seem to do much to improve the digestion. Michael, spaghetti eating, Soho Festival 9.75 (2) copy My son soon got stuck in.  He and one of his rivals seemed to think the nearer the dish they got, the better their chances.

Old man.001

An elderly gentleman, eating at a leisurely pace, had probably just come along for his dinner.

The 39th Soho Festival is to be held this September.  Details can be obtained from the Soho Society at 55 Dean St., W1.

For my evening meal I enjoyed Jackie’s delicious chicken curry, savoury rice, and samosas so much that I paid scant attention to the last of the Terre de Galets which was meant to accompany it.


Seamans Lane

Rose and honeysuckleAlthough it brightened up enough around noon to add a glow to vibrant magenta roses intertwined with honeysuckle in a Minstead hedgerow, the day dawned dull and dank as I walked the Seamans Lane/Shave Wood loop.  I did not venture off the tarmac.Roses and honeysuckle

The blossom I had seen on the edge of the forest leading to Football Green was indeed apple, as evidenced by the little green fruit on the boughs.

Apple tree

Until I met Anne in Minstead, I had the road to myself.  The elderly woman has been away for a while whilst her dilapidated house with its waterlogged garden, photographed on 21st April, was being refurbished.  It was good to see her back home and looking well.

On 24th February I posted information about Elizabeth’s Open Studios exhibition to take place in August. Ondekoza, 9.76. 001 There I mentioned that I was to submit some photographs of drumming that I took in September 1976, of the stunning Japanese band of timpanists that entertained the Soho Festival that year.  Ondekoza, 9.76. 002This afternoon I made a start by unearthing the original colour slides, scanning them and uploading  (if that’s the right word) them to my computer.  There was a fairly considerable amount of retouching to take out tiny blemishes in these little rectangles of positive film almost 37 years old.  They do not have the sharp clarity of today’s digital images, but maybe they are none the worse for that. Ondekoza, 9.76. 002 - Version 2 One I have even managed to crop, yet still retain enough of a focus to show the speed of the drumstick fanned across the drummer’s face.  We’ll see what I manage to do when I come to print them tomorrow.

Ondekoza, 9.76. 003

Jackie is camping at Corfe Castle with Helen and Shelly, but she still fed me this evening.  She has left me enough cooked meals and cold meats, pies and bread to last me a fortnight, let alone the four days she will be away. Chicken curry meal This evening I made a little impression on the large casserole of chicken curry, and ate one of the beautifully served dishes of savoury rice with a vegetable samosa and a nan, accompanied by a bottle of Kingfisher.  I did have to microwave the home-cooked dishes and heat the samosa and bread in the oven, but that wasn’t really any hardship.

Righting The Beetle

Impersonating a man with a great deal of local knowledge as I walked through Minstead this morning to pick up my route through the two underpasses turning at the Sir Walter Tyrrell pub, there was only one visitor I was unable to direct.  One of two, that is.  Just a 50% success rate.  Not very impressive really.


The bracken on the other side of the A31 has almost obscured some of the tracks I took last time I trod a diagonal to Rufus Stone (see post of 19th November last year).  However, my friends will be relieved to learn that I was unerring in my direction.  Maybe they won’t.  Had I erred they may have had a laugh.

Degrading tree trunk

Some of the fallen trees have degraded enough to be flaking and blending well with last year’s autumn leaves.

The forest was very quiet today. Pony making for Rufus Stone car park Just two sounds interrupted my silence.  The first was a sudden neighing.  This is very unusual.  Ponies don’t usually waste that much energy.  I turned to see four of them making their way to the Rufus Stone car park, where they no doubt hoped to perform some scam on eager tourists.  I could have told them that the visitors hadn’t arrived yet.  A little later, a scuttling in the crispness underfoot, had me turning to spy a scut scooting through the undergrowth.  It was the tail of either a small deer or a very large rabbit.

Forest scape 2

Fallen forest giants blocked the pathways and lent their own prehistoric ambience to the wooded landscape.Forest scape 3Fallen tree 3Fallen tree 2Fallen tree

Moss-covered stumpA primeval swamp creature metamorphosed into a moss-covered stump and its roots.

Bracket fungiI’m sure there is a name for the step-thingies that climbers inset into sheer rock faces so that they may scale them.  Bracket fungi on a dead tree looked to me to be the prehistoric climber’s version of these.

It is sometimes amazing what one finds in the forest. Shoes Today’s gem was a pair of inappropriate footwear.  I speculated about who may have left them.  Had it been an eighteenth century beau?  Had it been Sybil Leek, whose story was told on 22nd of this month?  If so, where was her pointed hat?  Or was it one of the young women who had participated in the orgy mentioned on 22nd May?  And why were they placed so neatly?

Soon after finding these, I heard siren song, and was tempted by glimpses of diaphanous material wafting across a comparatively open space, to investigate.  Bog cottonThis led me into very boggy terrain in which I expected to be stranded.  Never having been daft enough to venture into a quagmire before moving to Minstead, I had not seen this white fabric before, and looked it up on Google when I got home.  It was, of course, bog cotton.


Back on dry ground, I found a pair of sloughed wings.

Stag beetleAs I clambered up the gravel path from the Malwood Farm underpass, I encountered a small stag beetle struggling across the stones.  This took me back to the long hot summers of my childhood in the dry and dusty suburbs of Raynes Park and Wimbledon.  There may, of course, have only been one such summer, but, as we know, anything that happens once in a child’s life is magnified in later life into a regular occurrence.

However often it was, a regular sight was a, usually much larger, (but then it would be to a child, wouldn’t it?) beetle lying on its back, its legs twitching away.  Chris and I, like all other boys, kind and generous to all living creatures, always put these insects out of their misery and back onto their feet.  This required a certain amount of nerve, and a lever.  After all, we were not going to put our fingers near those grasping claws.  If we were eating an ice lolly at the time there was no problem.  We just had to watch the squirming animal while we finished our refreshment, and we then had a ready-made implement or two.  If not, we had to search out a twig.  These were not in plentiful supply in our streets.  Or a used match.  There were loads of them, but they were a bit short, which meant fingers near the grabbers.  It was okay if we shifted the beetle through 180 degrees first time.  It would then stagger to its feet and make off sharpish.  If, however, we applied to much force, the poor creature went through 360 degrees and the procedure had to be repeated.  Probably we should have carried forceps around with us.  I do hope the beetles were eternally grateful.

Tonight we dined on a superb mixed grill casserole with twice cooked swede and potato mash and virgin cauliflower.  Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and I began Terres de Galets bottle number 010165.

The Nuthatch

Jackie's side gardenBack down to earth after yesterday’s Mottisfont display, we were nevertheless delighted to note the progression of Jackie’s south side garden, begun some time after the kitchen one. Verbena and marigolds With few exceptions, her plants are benefitting from her love and attention, and the warmer weather.

Jackie was running out of certain specific items of bird food.  They now take precedence over shopping for human nutriment.  So we had to go to In-eXcess near Poulner on the A31 for replenishments.  While she bought the avian fodder and sat with her newspaper in the establishment’s cafe waiting for me, I walked a loop taking in Hangersley, Linford, and Shobley.  Horses in pastureThis consisted of sometimes steeply undulating lanes, harbouring idyllic homes, and offering views of sweeping woodland and hillside pasturage.  Bramble blossomThe thick hedgerows are decked with dog rose, bramble blossom, and honeysuckle, attracting much insect life.

Honeysuckle hedgerow

As I vainly wafted my ordnance survey map and watched horses switching their tails, I discovered why they are equipped with fly sheets.

margritti-this-is-not-a-pipeThe Surrealist artist Rene Magritte’s 1929 painting, ‘The Treachery of Images’ is of a pipe beneath which is the phrase ‘this is not a pipe’.  The philosopher was correct.  It was not actually a pipe, but the image of one.

Hoverfly on dogroseSimilarly, the insect that alighted on the dog rose, was not what it looks like.  This was a harmless individual that masquerades as something else much more harmful, no doubt to scare off the opposition.  Not a bee, not a wasp, it was a hoverfly.

Whilst she was preparing our dinner of delicious sausage, bacon, and liver casserole, Jackie was startled by a thud from outside, as of a bird hitting glass.  Nuthatch on matShe looked outside and saw a nuthatch on the welcome mat, with  metaphoric stars in a speech bubble above its dazed head.  It was then her turn to bang on a window as she came round outside the sitting room and I handed her the camera. Nuthatch on blind On her return her little friend had recovered sufficiently to fly, but was disoriented enough to be perched at the top of the kitchen window blind.  I don’t think it still had limited vision.  It soon disappeared.

The aforementioned casserole was enjoyed with potato, carrot and swede mash; cauliflower; and, by me, the last of the Terres de Galets.

Graham Stuart Thomas

Rose garden 4This warm and changeable day turned out to be perfect for a visit to a National Trust garden.  We drove quite smoothly through Romsey, and past the Mountbatten home of Broadlands, where we would normally expect to encounter queues of traffic.  It was, however, as we neared our goal that we met the queues.  Cars formed lines in each direction at the entrance to the overflow car park.  The main one was already full at midday.  Rather harassed young men with SECURITY stamped on their jerkins waved us in one by one.  As we alighted we were told we were in the wrong place and likely to cause a bottleneck.  It wasn’t immediately clear how we could do that, but Jackie, adopting the usual placid persona she reserves for anything to do with the car, calmly and collectedly moved her Modus to the far corner of the uncut meadow  which served as a parking area.

What could possibly have brought all these vehicles to a National Trust house on a Tuesday in term-time?   Ah.  All was soon revealed.  The aged of the nation had descended en masse on Mottisfont.  We have now joined those privileged senior citizens who have done their time in their offices, factories, or whatever workplaces, and have the opportunity to litter the countryside with their presence.  I posted a previous visit to Mottisfont on 7th September.Pink climber This time, we were earlier in the season and able to enjoy the rose garden for which the house is justifiably famous.

Rose garden 2

For more than 800 years people have lived and worked on the Mottisfont estate.  The name comes from a Saxon moot, or meeting place, by a fountain. This site remains in the grounds, and is still a clear spring.

Mottisfont lawn

Crossing one of the several threads of the River Test, one sees the house across rolling lawns.  Meadow, MottisfontMeadows are retained on the edges and the area is home to many a massive tree.  Benches are dotted about and their shady situations offer places for rest or contemplation.  Motorised buggies transport those less mobile.

Jackie in walled garden, Mottisfont

We immediately made our way to the walled garden that contains many roses itself, and leads into the showpiece.

Rose garden

Rose spiralLast September there were still some roses in bloom, so I was familiar with the garden created by the Gardens Adviser to the National Trust, but I was totally unprepared for the magnificent display that greeted us as we made our way through the ancient brick walls to the gravel and stone paths laid amongst the profusion and variety of colourful flora. Rose garden 3 That the sun had chosen to light up the garden, filled with pensioners, some of whose clothing matched the horticultural hues, completed the picture.

I think Monet would have loved it. Bee in semi-double magenta rose

Whether one focussed on the whole landscape picture with the figures of those of a certain age dotted about amongst the flowers, or on the blooms themselves, there was much to delight the eye.Peony and rose, Mottisfont Iris

Rosa GallicaAmong the roses can been seen other plants such as peonies, irises, delphiniums, or allium.  All clearly benefitting from well-nurtured soil.

The aforementioned Gardens Adviser was Graham Stuart Thomas.  He moved his outstanding collection of old-fashioned shrub roses to Mottisfont’s walled garden during 1972 and 1973.Graham Stuart Thomas

A fine yellow rose bears his name.

We chose not to visit the house today, and went for a walk along the river bank.  Last September there was an exhibition in the house of E.H.Shepard’s illustrations to Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’.  Shepard’s drawings include an iron bridge much like the one you must cross to reach the riverside walk.  Indeed, to accompany the exhibition, a rowing boat such as Toad may have used, had been moored by the bridge.Bridge over River Test

Riverside walkA number of couples walked along the water’s edge.  Some ventured even further, into a vast meadow where cows lowed.

Ready for a sudden insecticidal leap to the surface, large trout lurked like U-boats among the underwater reeds that were flattened and fanned out by the swift flowing current that forced the ducks to paddle furiously just to persist in their desire to swim against it.Trout lurkingUnderwater reeds

As we made our way past an enormous sylvan structure that is two ancient plane trees in one, a troop of children that must have had very little impact on the average age of today’s visitors, fell over each other to be the first to reach the subject of their field trip. Plane tree school trip, Mottisfont Their escorts struggled to keep them to order.

Back home we learned that all the garages had been broken into overnight.  We lost nothing.  One man lost a torch, and another, two golf clubs.  It was rather difficult to see the point of the burglary.

Jackie made a juicy liver casserole as an excuse to use the giant cauliflower she had bought a couple of days ago.  This was enjoyed on my part with the last of bottle number 012919 of the Terres de Galets and the first of number 000198.

Pick The Bucket

Just a week away from July, I was actually cold as I walked down to Seamans Corner and back this morning to post a letter.  For a city dweller it may seem hardly worth recording such a trip, but it does take twenty minutes.  I reflected on a far more painful crawl to a post box described in ‘The London Marathon’ on 25th September last year.  I omitted to mention that that receptacle was just two or three hundred yards away.

This afternoon we motored to The Firs to continue work begun yesterday.  Jackie finished trimming the edges and did a lot more planting; Compost binsI performed some maintenance work on the compost bins and finished the mowing; and Elizabeth spent the afternoon tidying up the debris corner and packing her car so that she and I could do a dump trip.

Rosa Glauca

Many plants are now thriving as a result of last year’s work, be it the planting of fresh flowers or the nurturing of existing shrubs and smaller flora.

The Rosa Glauca, VerbascumVerbascum,Geum and foxgloves Geum, and Old English scented rose I have photographed were chosen almost at random.Old English scented rose

In the early evening Elizabeth and I took her second car-load to the municipal dump.  The main purpose was to transport much rubble from the house’s recently repaired chimney stack.  We also found room for the rotting innards of a beehive; a wooden ladder that had lost most of its rungs;  several bagfuls of pruned shrubbery and brambles; and even Jackie’s wheelie shopping bag that had finally collapsed under one of its loads of bags of compost.

I have previously mentioned my sister’s propensity for bringing at least one souvenir with her back from the dump.  Today was to be no exception.  She had placed the rubble in various buckets and other receptacles and loaded them into the car.  It must have been very difficult for her to have lifted them over the rim of the boot.  Possibly as difficult as it was for me to lift them rather higher into the enormous skip labelled ‘Soil and Rubble’.  I recommend anyone trying this at home to test lift anything to go into a Council skip at least to shoulder height before attempting the task.  If you can’t lift the container, reduce its contents.

BucketsWe travelled back with an extra bucket, Elizabeth’s, for £2 for cash.  A prize is offered for the reader who correctly identifies the new bucket.  Answers in a comment please.

Whilst I was waiting for Jackie, Elizabeth and Danni to change for a trip to the Masala Lounge in Chandler’s Ford for our evening meal, I amused myself watching the still toiling bees crawling in and out of foxgloves in search of honey. FoxgloveBee in foxglove They would fly in their ungainly manner, loaded to the thighs already, silently disappear up the trumpet-shaped petals, take their fill, stagger out, and move on to another.

Our meal was excellent, and the service, albeit a little slow, friendly and efficient.  Danni, who had found the restaurant some time ago, had often suggested we go there.  It was a good recommendation.  She drank a Chilean merlot, whilst the rest of us imbibed Cobra beer.

On the way there I travelled with Elizabeth, whilst Jackie drove Danni.  At one point my driver, addressing no-one in particular, announced that she had to charge up her eye pads this evening.  As I hadn’t realised she had an ocular problem, other than the family short-sightedness, I wondered why she needed such appliances.  After all, she was at the wheel and had my life in her hands.  This sent her into helpless laughter which made me all the more nervous since she appeared likely to lose control altogether.  When able to gather herself together she explained that she now possessed two i-Pads, one specifically for work, and they both needed recharging.


Late this morning Jackie drove us to The Firs for a gardening session.  A barbecue was on offer.  It was a blustery day with intermittent rain.  This didn’t really affect the horticultural activities, but it did mean that the barbecue was held in the kitchen.

On 15th of this month (see post) Jackie and I drove to Mapperley to spend the weekend with Louisa and Errol and their family.  Unfortunately that clashed with Danni’s birthday party to which we had been invited.  The event had been announced on Facebook, naturally only for the chosen few.  We were honoured to be included, but had to decline.  My niece had politely suggested that her guests might bring along HUGE presents.  It can now be revealed that the birthday gifts mentioned yesterday were for her; a Labradorite necklace and an incised leather document case furnished with a mirror and a hair clip.  It was Adam who found the clip which must have been a freebie.  The leather case was, as I expect you have guessed by now, antique, probably from the 1930s.  It was a bonus that, unknown to us, Labradorite is one of Danni’s favourite minerals.

DerrickWe had a bit of a dilemma because the presents were really rather small, and we did want to comply with the request.  They would just have to go into a huge box.  A removals packing case was just the job.  Placed inside a plastic carrier bag, the two wrapped presents were taped to the bottom of the large container and I hammed up the delivery, making it appear rather heavier than it was.

Compost potatoesElizabeth had done a vast amount of weeding last weekend, so we didn’t have as much to do as expected.  We were, however, kept busy weeding, trimming edges, and mowing the main lawn.  I also turned and weeded next year’s compost, which gave us the added treat of a few potatoes, which, like my French tomatoes, had grown out of the heap.

Regular readers will be familiar with my view that I’ll eat barbecued food provided someone else cooks it.  Preferably as well as Ron, to whose efforts I was introduced  on 26th May.  I don’t relish fiddling about with charcoal and firelighters when there are perfectly good facilities in most kitchens.  That is why today’s weather conditions, in that respect, were to my liking. Barbecue food Elizabeth roasted the meats in the oven; we served ourselves from the hobs; and sat in a civilised manner at the table indoors.  The ladies had produced various salads, laid out safe from flying invaders.Danni and Thea I don’t remember what the wines were.  Danni sported her new necklace which she had donned immediately.

Another industrious activity continued today was the grand garage clearance.  Danni and Andy have for some time now been engaged in helping my sister decide what to do with the contents of the annexe which has never had room for a car.  They have made regular trips to the dump, and however much they take out, the space resembles the Magic Porridge Pot which always replenishes itself.  This weekend they had reinforcements in the form of Adam and Thea.  Much progress was made. The garage is being cleared for the Open Studios exhibition planned for late summer.

DragonSome of the stored items actually belonged to Adam.  One of these is his first dragon, whose wings have taken a battering over the years.  I mentioned yesterday Flo’s interest in such creatures and her Dragonology website.  My nephew, Adam Keenan, has come a long way since making his dragon with a group as a GCSE project.  On 28th July last year, in my post ‘Family Pride’, I described how, in Le Code Bar in Sigoules, I had watched the Olympic closing ceremony featuring Adam’s doves of peace.  Knowing he now worked making such models, and animatronics for the film and advertising worlds, I had, for Flo’s birthday three years ago, commissioned him to make her a working dragon.  He had not let me down.


WoodpeckerJackie’s patience in watching the bird table from her kitchen hide has paid off.  The two most timid feeders are the woodpecker and the blackbird.  BlackbirdThrough the glass of the French windows she managed to photograph each of them this morning.

It was a much cooler and duller day today.  This afternoon we motored out to Burley to buy birthday presents which cannot yet be revealed in this forum.

Depending on how one defines the term grockle, we, once arch grockles, may no longer warrant this disparaging local term.  A grockle, especially in the SW of England, is a tourist or an incomer.  It was Hugh Lowther, sometime in the 1970s or ’80s, in Cumbria who first introduced me to the term.  Although he had spent much of his life outside the area, he, as the eldest son of the Earl of Lonsdale, could definitely consider himself beyond that epithet.

As we drove into the grocklesville that is the New Forest village of Burley, we speculated that the tourists who swarmed around may be thinking that the forest was a wonderful place and they wanted to live there.  And we did live there.  We felt sad for them that, as we wandered into the main street with its gift and tea shops, the rain set in.  On our way back it was windscreen wipers all the way.


Nevertheless, the brave were tucking into New Forest ice cream.

Burley has a reputation for the occult.  Dragons and witches and everything to do with them fill the gift shops.  Indeed, when our granddaughter was younger, Jackie bought many a dragon here for Flo, who, at the age of twelve, created her own dragonology website, such was her fascination with the mythical creatures.

The legend of the dragon originated in olden times.  There was said to be one living in a lair just outside the village.  One local tale is that the monster flew every morning three miles away to Bisterne, where it would be supplied with milk.  It was slain by a man who lay in wait for it and administered the decisive thrust whilst the victim was diverted by his two dogs.  A pedigree roll preserved at Berkeley Castle contains marginalia relating the story and naming the hero as Sir Maurice Berkeley, lord of the manor of Bisterne in the 15th century.

WitchcraftLegends should be age-old.  One could therefore feel a little cheated to learn that the witches of Burley, who one may be forgiven for imagining cast their spells at least as long ago as the seventeenth century, were only one person, and she lived there in the late 1950s, when I was in my teens.  To my younger readers this may seem historic, but only if I do.  Sybil Leek, a self-styled white witch, lived then in the village, around which she walked with her pet jackdaw, or familiar, on her shoulder, before she moved to America.  There are a couple of antique shops selling jewellery among other things.  Did the jackdaw, a member of a race of notorious thieves, I wonder, leave a hoard for these shopkeepers to discover and market?  And does Sybil retain the power to look down on her one-time home and see the industry she has spawned?

Unable to resist the temptation to serve up my third roast pork dinner in four days, Jackie did so.  Rice pudding and custard was to follow. Only I had the custard.  It was worth being called a philistine for.  I drank some of Terres de Galets cote du Rhone 2012, bottle number 012919.  Jackie’s choice was Prestige de Calvet semillon chardonay 2011.

Platinum Shine

I had a bit of a lazy day today.  The morning was spent getting back into Henri Troyat’s ‘Grandeur Nature’, which translates as ‘life size’.

Mare and foalJackie then drove us to Totton to buy a second garden chair.  She hadn’t quite had enough money with her to buy two yesterday when she acquired the first.

As we emerged from the garden onto Upper Drive, we disturbed a mare and her foal.  The adult pony was keen to shield her infant from our gaze, whilst the baby metaphorically clung to its mother’s skirts, anxiously tripping over itself to keep pace. The mare led the way into the bracken in an attempt to steer clear of me.

56 Frys Lane

Then it was next stop Frys (no apostrophe) Lane in Everton for the first of two external observations of potential eventual purchases. Hare Lane house Number 56 looked to me the better option, although the semi-detatched house in Hare Lane, New Milton that was the second, was also acceptable.  The baying of a hound next door in Frys Lane was a little disconcerting.

Jackie's garden

Back at home we sat in the garden marvelling at how mature Jackie’s planting now looks. Hanging baskets It is as if she has transported the hanging baskets and pots from The Firs to Castle Malwood Lodge.

Petunias and others

As tenants we are allowed neither pets nor children in residence although either are welcome to visit.  That suits us fine.  However, many of the flats in the house are owned by their occupiers.  A number have dogs.  Some of these bark.  Some a lot.

As we sit in our corner of the garden, we see the owners walking their pets, and they often come and have a chat with us.  A frequent visitor is Jean who has until quite recently been subject to considerable embarrassment because her dog barked a great deal.  It was impossible for her to have a comfortable discourse because Nevis, her Coton du Tulear, would bark all the way through.  She has, however, been working very hard on this, and today we  enjoyed a lengthy conversation with Nevis looking his usual happy, friendly self, and not barking once.  Congratulations were in order, and we gave them.

Platinum shine car washOn 31st May I wrote about Eleanor and Henry, our resourceful young neighbours.  This evening they buzzed our entryphone to gain access to our side of the building in order to distribute leaflets for their ‘Platinum Shine Car Wash’.  I happily granted them admission.

Soon afterwards Jackie, resisting the temptation to produce roast pork, served up her smoked haddock dish with cauliflower cheese (recipe) and sautéed potatoes.  Delicious.  The cheese produces a lovely tangy flavour, which meant the last glass of the Berberana was not an inappropriate accompaniment.