Lunch Time

 

Poppies by Jackie 3Poppies by Jackie 2Poppies by Jackie 1

Yesterday evening Jackie borrowed the camera to photograph poppy heads. This morning we worked on cropping the images.

Jackie then drove us to Kilmington, near Axminster in Devon, and back. Our friends Luci and Wolf are spending a week in a holiday cottage there. This is The Linhay off Whitford Road. It is a beautifully restored and tastefully presented former milking shed, and the owners, who live next door at Oxenlears, are most considerate.Valley

The house is perched on a hillside overlooking an idyllic, sheep-dotted, valley, the pastoral quiet of which is broken only, it seems, at certain regular times.

On 17th December 2012 I described how, as I retired person, I sometimes don’t know what day it is. The same thing applies to the time of day. Such is the freedom of release from work commitments. Our friends would probably find the same uncertainty in their Devon hillside cottage, were it not for these timely clarion calls.

Train running through valleyThe most frequent is the clatter of the train crossing the valley from Lyme Regis on the hour every hour, followed by another coming from the opposite direction five minutes later. We may not have known which hour it was, but at least we knew it was something o’clock or five minutes past.

It was the sheep’s alarm that was the most insistent. Just as Luci announced that she was about to produce lunch, a clamorous bleating was set up. Sheep and cattle 7The black-faced creatures had, until then, spent the day huddled around a tree. Sheep and cattle 1Sheep and cattle 2Sheep and cattle 3Sheep and cattle 4Sheep and cattle 5Sheep and cattle 6They clambered or sprang to their feet and trooped eagerly, two by two, across to another field where they were being joined by cattle. Then we noticed the little white van and trailer that they were vying with their bovine companions to reach first. Whatever they were being fed was deposited on the ground without the driver having to leave his vehicle.

Presumably after the animals had had their fill, the sheep trotted back to their tree, and the cattle off to another field. Whatever they had been fed could not have matched the huge succulent chunks of juicy chicken that Luci had ‘thrown in a pot’ with mushrooms, new potatoes, carrots, and a tasty sauce for us. Jackie wondered whether she might be at risk of overdosing on carrots when we had carrot cake with strawberries to follow. Both were delicious so she took a chance. Luci and I drank a 2013 Wolf Blass red wine, and Jackie drank Hoegaarden. Wolf’s choice was fruit juice.

As usual, we all enjoyed each other’s company. Cheese and onion sandwiches were quite sufficient for Jackie and me when we returned home.

P.S. I am indebted to Barrie Haynes for pointing out that trains do not run from Lyme Regis any more

That’s One I Made Earlier

The Milford Conservation Volunteers have developed a Wildlife Garden Project. LeafletsGiles's gardenGiles's garden 2This morning, as we travelled to Studland Drive, couples were seen walking all over the village clutching brochures which gave them admission to 25 gardens in the small coastal town. One of these was the home of our old friend Giles Darvill, coordinator of the project. Giles himself has, in sixteen years, transformed a garden, except for a few extant mature trees, fully laid to lawn, into a haven for insects, birds and small animals. The local badger is not particularly welcome, as it eats hedgehogs. We were there to take the first 90 minute stint on the ‘door’. One of our tasks was the distribution of leaflets.

Giles and visitorsGiles and visitors 2Giles’s garden, not manicured enough to pass muster for the National Gardens Scheme, is nevertheless truly inspirational, and drew a steady stream of visitors.Long grass

Viper's buglossDead woodThe gardener has provided several useful notices, like that placed in front of the viper’s bugloss, a favourite of bees, giving informative ideas about installations to encourage various fauna.

Hibernating and nesting messDead wood provides hibernation and nesting facilities for insects, whilst heaps of branches provide something similar for other small creatures. Creepy crawlies and bees are at home in the long grass.

PondTranslucent blue damselflies flitted and hovered above the small pond bearing artefacts from our friend’s yachting activities. Other, smaller, containers of water are strategically placed around the delightful creation. One small pan contained two large pebbles. Pan of waterRealising that they would be for a particular purpose I asked Giles what this was. His answer was ‘mice’. These would be the field variety, such as the one I saw climbing and swaying on our poppies this morning.

Aesop’s crow had to work out how to bring the water in the pitcher to the level at which it could access it to drink. Giles’s mice have no need to scratch their heads for a solution.

Stone and wood installationCotoneaster stemBird feederThe garden also contains many examples of its owner’s penchant for creating sculptural effects from found stone and wood. He has, for example, simply planted a cotoneaster stem to make its meandering way skywards.

I have mentioned before that Old Post House is decorated with a number of pieces of Giles’s stained glass. So is his own home. When we admired a bird feeder featuring one, he said ‘I made that last night’.

Pony and trapBack home this afternoon, I walked down to the postbox and back, meeting a pony trotting up the hill drawing a trap and its occupants.

This evening we dined at The Royal Oak, our neighbours. I enjoyed roast pork followed by blueberry cheesecake and ice cream; Jackie’s choice was mushroom stroganoff with ice cream to follow. She drank Becks. Doom Bar was off, so I settled for Ringwood Best.

 

The Cat’s Paws

This morning Jackie carried out further heavy weeding of the oval bed, whilst I didn’t quite manage to empty the bath.

First I had to reach the object of my attention. This involved pruning the box hedge which was its first line of defence. Then that of brambles had to be breached. Then what I had cut away had to be transported to the pile for burning. Then I had to balance on the rim of the bath and try to make an indentation in the soil and rubbish it contained. Then I shovelled out spadefuls trying to place them somewhere sensible. It was easier when I could stand inside it. Every so often I climbed out and tried to tip it up. It’s no good, I am going to have to take everything out of it before I can even shift it. I do hope it is not made of cast iron. Just In case anyone doubts that yesterday’s picture was indeed of a bath, this is a photograph showing how far I have progressed:Bath in garden

This afternoon we drove to Bitterne to visit The First Gallery’s exhibition of works by Alvin Betteridge and M.H.Clarke. Although the exhibits are not the same as the earlier show, this was the first day of a weekend’s reprisal of the gallery’s first exhibition forty years ago. We arrived between the day’s open show and the later private viewing. If you are interested in original works of art by an established artist and her guests, often equally well known, at reasonable prices ‘in a domestic setting’, you could do worse that visit them at http://www.TheFirstGallery.co.uk, or better still at home at No. 1 Burnham Chase. We did, in fact, make a purchase which we left with Paul who runs a picture framing surface from the same address. Margery and her son Paul, are good friends of ours and we had an enjoyable conversation before returning to Old Post House.

We didn’t quite manage to go directly home. Ever trying to find routes through the New Forest which don’t involve the usually slow crawl through Lyndhurst, Jackie decided to continue along the A31 to Forest Road from whence she would drive through Emery Down. Forest Road was still closed to traffic following repairs to the cattle grid which should have been completed well before now. It does seem to be a feature of the area that roads are sealed off for works that don’t take place for months on end. With the occasional mild expletive, my chauffeuse continued along the major road to the Burley turn off. By this time we had developed a taste for a Chinese meal and I suggested a greater diversion through Brockenhurst where we could dine at Yenz Chinese restaurant which we had enjoyed as recently as 3rd April. This was not to be. From opposite the establishment I crossed the road in rain reminiscent of last year’s waterlogged summer, to read a notice saying that the business had closed down.

Now what? Well, we could try Lymington. We did. As we wandered along the High Street, Lymington looked remarkably quiet and closed for a holiday centre on a Saturday night in summer. Tesco’s was open, so Jackie went in and enquired. Fusion InnStartersMainsShe was directed to the far end of town to Fusion Inn. It wasn’t serving Chinese food, but, much more appropriately termed fusion, Thai. ‘That’ll do’, we said. And it most certainly did. The food was excellent; the service friendly and efficient; and the Tiger beer thirst-quenching.

Still serving as a pub, the integral restaurant provides the fusion bit. By inference, we have surmised that the building dates from the 1750s. This is because of the legend on a brass plaque affixed to the wall by our table. According to the manager the pub was originally called ‘The Old English Gentleman’; later it became ‘The Black Cat’; and eleven years ago ‘Fusion Inn’. The feline name came from a brick in the wall.Cat's paw print 1 A small section of the brickwork in a plastered wall has been left free of rendering. This is to expose the paw prints of a cat that we are told would have been left in the wet brick in the 1750s. It was found by John Allison during restoration work.

An Alfresco Bath

Bottle brush plant

 

The red bottle brush plant, which I passed on my way to continue work on the kitchen garden, is now looking resplendent.

 

Nettles, honeysuckle and raspberriesRaspberriesSt John's wortThere are a great deal of treasures hidden in the undergrowth of today’s target area. Peeking through nettle leaves, for example, are raspberries. A blackcurrant bush bears fruit, strawberries soon will, and St John’s wort lies at the bottom of the green cage.

A previous post, in which I described mistaking an acanthus for a thistle, demonstrates how it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between somewhat similar plants. Today, until the head gardener informed me that raspberry bushes are less thorny than brambles, I was uncertain in the application of my loppers. Neither was I sure about stinging nettles which look very similar to another plant that bears a spire of purple flowers. When I was faced with a plentiful crop of both, there was nothing for it but to remove my gloves and clutch the leaves. These particular nettles bear slow acting poison, so I rubbed them a few times before I was sure I had been stung. They were a little like a strong curry that doesn’t betray its chilli content until you’ve taken a few mouthfuls. And rather less pleasant.

AcanthusI am pleased to report that the acanthus has recovered from my savage attack, and has produced new shoots,  one in bloom.

By mid-afternoon it was apparent that the expected rain, which had deterred me from thinking about a bonfire today, was not going to arrive. I therefore left the kitchen garden clearance for another day, and began the fire. This was rather fortuitous, because I had reached a stumbling block near the back fence. This came in the form of a box hedge which had got beyond itself and barred access to the back section. I cleared this as best I could of weeds, convolvulus, and the ubiquitous bramble, by stretching over the obstacle. I then struck something I could not clear without circumventing the box. Jackie had transferred a number of the finds, like a pleasant saxifrage, the St John’s wort, and several kinds of mint, to other parts of the garden.

Bath in gardenWhat I had found needed to be emptied before it could, no doubt, be moved and filled with colourful flowers. It was a bath.

Jackie planting clematis texansis Duchess of AlbanyTowards the end of the day I was grateful for some assistance from the head gardener in cutting up combustible materials and placing them in a wheelbarrow so I didn’t have to practice touching my toes to pick them up. This helped to ensure that I didn’t topple over while doing so. In fact, even in what Sam would call my able-bodied years, I never could touch my toes without bending my knees.

Knotty faceBefore dinner Jackie planted a clematis texensis Duchess of Albany in a cleared part of the kitchen garden, and trained it against an existing pergola. Our rose garden will also contain clematises. She added a shell to the fence, for the humorous touch.

After this we dined on chilli con carne (recipe) with wild rice and peas, followed by Post House Pud based on strawberries. The strawberries were eight days beyond their ‘best before date’, so they were a bit furry, but with a certain amount of judicious cutting, we saved a few.  Jackie drank her customary Hoegaarden and I enjoyed a Longhorn Valley cabernet sauvignon 2012.

Not Fit For Purpose

Lonicera by patioYesterday, Jackie tackled a section of lonicera forcing its way through a piece of matting fencing erected by our predecessor. Because this invasive shrub was sandwiched between our side and a garage it had nowhere to go save through our flimsy fence. It was also very difficult to access. She did rather well, I thought. The matting suffered a bit.

Support for golden archesDay liliesThis morning the head gardener acted upon her conviction that my golden arches were not fit for purpose, and provided them with strengthening support. Dancing either side of the new structure, yet another variety of day lily, of a rich, red hue, has emerged into the light.

Jackie had cleared the entrance to the kitchen garden. Kitchen gardenKitchen garden 2There remained, however, a daunting amount of unwanted undergrowth choking and concealing what there is of interest in there. Clearance of this was the task I embarked upon today. I set about the brambles, and the brambles set about my new gardening gloves. We have decided to turn it into a rose garden, which, coincidentally, is what I eventually did with one of the vegetable patches in Newark.

There are some very attractive and established low box hedges which we will retain, along with several gooseberry bushes, at least two apple trees, and various herbs. Who knows what else might come to light.

This afternoon we were visited by Vicki and Barrie Haynes, friends of my sister Jacqueline and blogging friends of mine. We have got to know each other through WordPress, but had not met until today. The afternoon was so successful that we extended the meeting until the evening and all dined at The Jarna. Our friends enjoyed the establishment, the food, and the service as much as we do.

The Power Of Speech

This morning, Jackie drove me to New Milton where I caught the London train. It is the first week of the Wimbledon tennis tournament. Naturally the train was to have an additional stop at Wimbledon. Naturally it was a little late. Naturally it contained only four coaches. Naturally one of those was designated First Class. Naturally the other carriages were crowded.

As an introduction to to Cicero’s ‘In Catilanum’ I-IV, D.H.Berry’s article on ‘The Catiline Conspiracy’ which I read today offers a clear account of this event and Cicero’s action in opposing it. We are also told that Cicero’s speeches ‘Against Catiline’, which I went on to read, were published three years after the happenings that took place during the great orator’s consulship. This is significant because, although presented by the author as what he had said at the time, they may be construed as a later defence of his position.cicero

Cicero was responsible for implementing the senate’s decision to execute the five captured conspirators without trial. This was not legal. The consul’s action, although praised at the time – he was honoured as the saviour of Rome – was ultimately to lead to his death in dishonour.

The four speeches deal, in order, with his exhorting Catiline to leave Rome; with warning the senate that the rebel was gathering his armies against the state; with the capture of those criminals left by their leader to act in the capital when the time came;and with the execution debate.

There were many such events in Roman history. What makes this one unique is that it occurred during the time of a man with the ability to sniff it out, to combat it so eloquently, and to write it up so cleverly to preserve the story for posterity.

From Waterloo I travelled by my now customary underground route to Preston Road, and a short walk to Norman’s. In the recreation ground through which I pass, I noticed two patient carers helping a severely disabled young woman prepare her headgear, presumably as a protection against the strong sun. They passed me on their way to the enclosure where I had seen Yaw practising his footballing skills on 19th March. I greeted them. The carers returned the greeting. The young woman took that as an invitation to sit on the bench I was occupying. With good humour she was persuaded otherwise.

The carers then began a game of catch with their charge inside the fenced off area. They were encouraging when she managed the task of grasping the basket ball, and all three seemed genuinely to be enjoying themselves. I realised that the younger person seemed without the power of speech.

I did not think it appropriate to produce my camera.

The Roman orator employed his considerable skills more than two thousand years ago. He used them to climb to a position of great power. Ultimately they caused his violent death. His name and influence have been valued throughout the world, and down the centuries.

Today’s nameless young lady will have a very different life. May it, and its ending be happier than that of the man whose name will be forever remembered.

For lunch my friend provided an excellent beef casserole with mashed potato and vegetables followed by juicy summer pudding with which we shared a superb bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape 2012. I then took the tube from Preston Road to Westminster via Finchley Road and walked on to Carol’s. From there I took my usual transport back to New Milton where Jackie was waiting to drive me home.

The Watchers Watched

Path to orange shedIncluding strimming the grass, Jackie continued with general gardening this morning whilst I scanned the last ten of the photographs for Norman’s book, retouched the images, and made a dozen prints. The quality of these large-format negatives dating back to 1957 is very good.

One could hardly call the creative task Jackie finished this evening ‘general gardening’. She completed a completely new path to the orange shed, obviating the need to deviate through the kitchen garden arch.

This afternoon and evening I burnt more of the heap of cuttings. Having aimed to complete the task, I had to concede defeat.

Fires have a profound fascination for most people. This is why it is a shame that city living in particular militates against the open hearths of my childhood. Watching flames and seeing pictures in them was almost better than the television that, in modern homes, has taken the place of the grate as a focal point.

A bonfire holds a similar amount of interest as the flames lick, the smoke curls, the foliage sizzles, and the branches snap and fall, changing the framework of the image in a flash.Bonfire smoke striated My evening bonfire’s thin clouds of smoke were striated by the rays of the lowering sun.

Fire 3.68As we experienced during our Ockley holiday in March 1968, what really draws the crowds is an unexpected fire that spells potential disaster for someone. While we were exploring the deserted house featured on the 18th of this month, we noticed crowds gathering around what looked like a rather attractive house on fire. Naturally, there was a certain amount of disappointment when the conflagration was discovered to be a burning shed. Nevertheless, I was there with my camera. After taking a few shots I returned to the upper floor of the empty property, where I could discreetly watch the watchers. Spectators at fireJackie and other fire spectators 3.68Jackie stands a little aside from the others, bounded by an attractive window frame. The fire brigade eventually arrived and the spectators were able to watch them smartly move into action and dowse the flames.

Our dinner this evening was Jackie’s spicy chilli con carne (recipe) with wild rice, followed by gooseberry and apple crumble with custard in my case, and cream in hers. We both drank lambrusco Emilia reservato 2012.