My sinus pain was so acute this morning that I hadn’t much idea of doing anything that required getting out of a chair. After all, I’d already got out of bed. Jackie, however, visited the GP surgery for advice and medication. A combination of this and another glowing autumn day made me think I really ought to get outside.
She bought me a copy of New Forest Post, a newspaper that is sold for 20p, which reminded me of an ‘Independent’ cryptic crossword clue that I had rather liked. The subsidiary indication for the letter i was ‘what you can buy for 20p’. That is the price of the truncated version of the newspaper which is named ‘i’.
Far more significant for today, however, was an advertisement for Exbury Gardens which is staying open another week and boasts considerable autumn colour. So Jackie drove us off after lunch in search of splendid foliage. We didn’t have far to go to find it, because now is the time for John to gather up the leaves in our garden. Next week’s sweepings stubbornly clung to the trees above his head.
On the way to Exbury, where the house we short-listed is still for sale, we passed through Beaulieu, the river of which was reported by the newspaper to have overflown its banks. We wondered whether this would have caused any traffic problems. Although the surrounding forest is now being swamped by its winter pools, the river seems to have subsided. We were, however, held up on the way back by tree clearances necessitated by the storm of a fortnight ago.
Exbury Gardens seemed to be devoid of arboreal corpses, although we could hear machinery operating in parts we didn’t visit. Two days ago I spoke of the lack of red trees in the forest. Now I know where they all are. Created in the 1920s, the gardens extend over 200 acres of natural beauty, and are world-famous for their collections of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, rare trees, and shrubs. The colours of these latter plants were quite spectacular, whether seen individually or laid side by side as in a painter’s palette.
Many of the trees here I have never seen before. It is helpful that they have labels attached for our information. That describing the mahogany barked cherry tree was suspended by a copper wire complementing the stripes around the fresher sections of bark which hosted bright green lichen.
No Persian carpet could rival those provided by the maples and the pines.
Some of the shrubs, for example the Clerodendrum trichotomums, are clearly grown for their fascinating berries.
In the Five Arrows Gallery was a fine display of Nerines, of which the gardens have a splendid selection for sale.
Whether it was the air, the exercise, or the combination of Sudofed and Ibuprofen, I did feel somewhat better by the time we returned home. It doesn’t really matter which it was, does it? Notoriously resistant to taking anything for a headache, I am mellowing somewhat in my old age. This would please my one-time Deputy, Carol Elstub, who once tried to persuade me to take paracetamol. I said I didn’t like to take anything because if it made me better I wouldn’t know whether I still had whatever it was. ‘You see’, I said, ‘I like to know what I’ve got’. ‘You know what you’ve got’, she replied, ‘you’ve got a headache’. There was no answer to that really.
This evening Jackie fed us on her Moroccan pork, couscous, runner beans and cauliflower; followed by bread pudding and custard. And very good it all was, too.