A Rose For Retirement

HaircutBeach stones in pathEarly this morning Jackie resumed a task she had first undertaken more than forty years ago. She cut my hair, thus putting Donna-Marie out of business. Its colour was rather different first time round. The dark bit must be a trick of the light.

After this I placed the beach stones between the slabs in yesterday’s path. There were still not quite enough, and they put those found in the garden somewhat into the shade, so we will probably need a few more, even after I picked up some interesting pieces of flint on my later walk, and inserted them in place on my return.

During a break, Jackie has managed to identify two of the plants that had us beaten. The first is the white flower, libertia, depicted on 28th April; the second had been identified by Tess, but we couldn’t remember the name of the hebe salicifolia koromiko. Like our daughter in law, and so many of our garden treasures, these are both natives of New Zealand.

Dug up pathPaving from kitchen gardenWall round compost stage 1The day’s major joint task was to start on clearing the kitchen garden in preparation for its transformation into a rose bower. Largely hidden beneath the greenery lie treacherously uneven criss-crossing paths in all sorts of material, mostly brick, stone, and concrete, covering ancient layers of gravel. Any speculation about the evolution of this ankle-twisting surface would be fruitless. This, we have decided, will be the one area where we abandon what we find previously laid down, level it all off, and start from scratch with a sheet of squared paper.

I have begun piling up the paving, apart from the concrete slabs Jackie has snaffled to build a wall with which to restrain the compost.

Shady bedRetirement roseJackie has planted up what was the rather barren shady bed opposite the pale blue Ace Reclaim bench. The red rose in the container beneath the Gardman arch was given to her by her work colleagues when she retired from Merton Social Services Department two years ago. It has survived several moves, including overwintering at Shelly and Ron’s.

Mare's tailsLater this afternoon, I walked down to Shorefield stream and back.New Forest Tour bus The field opposite the entrance to the Country Park has a fine crop of mare’s tails. The New Forest Tour bus stops at the zebra crossing leading down to the chalets beyond the stream.

Pigeon on cableI had been hoping to photograph some coots today, but there were none in evidence.Small tortoiseshell male butterfly I did, however, watch a pigeon doing a high-wire act, and a male small tortoiseshell butterfly sunning itself on a buddleia.Red Admiral male butterfly Our butterflies, like this male Red Admiral prefer basking on our paving stones to perching on our version of that plant.

We dined on refreshing salad again this evening, followed by strawberries and evap (for the uninitiated this is a family term for evaporated milk) on a bed of Tesco’s raspberry twirl cheesecake. The cheesecake was reduced in price because it was pushing its sell-by date; the evap was reduced in fat content, because it is less likely to fatten the consumer. I drank more of the French cotes du Rhone and Jackie her Belgian beer (Hoegaarden in case you’ve forgotten).

Frith’s Postcards

Granite setsIt is quite a pleasant stage we have reached in the garden project. We are able to tackle tasks in tandem, rather than each being occupied at different ones. Thus, we did some planting together, notably the agapanthuses purchased a day or two ago. This involved digging through what felt like ironstone, moving other plants to make room for it, and transporting better soil from elsewhere.

Path round fir treeSimilarly, to enable me to border the shady path with granite sets, a couple of clumps of trespassing geraniums were dug out and offered alternative accommodation. The sets were required because the line of edge tiles petered out near the decking. There is no one material used throughout the garden, so it is quite fun to make a patchwork quilt with what is available.

Stones in pathWe fine-tuned the end of the head gardener’s path as it winds around the fir tree, and, bit by bit, as the day progressed set the slabs firmly in their bed of stony soil. There then ensued a search around the garden for stones with which to fill the fissures that create the curves winding through the inchoate shrubbery. It must be sod’s law that when you are digging a bed you find loads of them, but when you want some they are hard to come by.

When we moved in here we found on the orange-painted home-made mantelpiece, a welcoming note and a tiny framed black and white photograph. The image measures 11 x 7.5 centimetres. It is picture of our house as it was, we estimate, in the 1960s. Then it was the village shop. One set of chimneys has since been removed, and we have a garage extension. A bay at the front has replaced the shop front. Old Post House from the rearThe current view from the rear displays, centrally, our kitchen extension with its skylight. To the left of this was originally a pitched roof. To the right of the modern picture can be seen the more recent roof over our master suite.

We were intrigued to learn what were the signs standing at the front and the legend on the side of the house, but these were indiscernible to the naked eye, and a magnifying glass didn’t help. I removed the picture from its frame, and discovered it was a Frith’s postcard.Old Post House c1960Old Post House c1960 - Version 2 I then enlarged the image and was able to read:Downton Stores

Notices in the forecourt announced that the shop was open, and sold Players cigarettes and Lyons cakes. The Players Please board was on display in London’s Lime Street in August 1963. The story of the tobacco company was told on November 27th 2013.

Francis Frith was a pioneering mid-to-late-Victorian photographer who founded the postcard company in the 1850s. There is now a massive archive which is a fascinating collection of UK views. Although Frith died in 1898, his company lived on, with the occasional hiatus. The archives were bought from Rothman’s by John Buck in 1977, and continue to function as the Francis Frith Collection.

Interestingly, Frith’s places us in Lymington Road. Local maps, for example the one outside New Milton railway station, vary as to whether we are in Christchurch Road or Lymington Road. The modern Post Office gives our address as Christchurch Road. Where one merges into the other remains a mystery.

This evening we dined on a refreshing salad based on pork pie and pastrami. I drank half a glass of Cotes du Rhone Villages 2012 and Jackie had a few sips of her Hoegaarden. We then drove down to the beach and bagged a few stones to supplement those in the path completed today.

Does This Remind You Of Anyone?

10533096_10152557157745428_7566417720161208596_n When, yesterday evening, Louisa posted pictures on Facebook of her daughters Jessica and Imogen on a swing, she tagged Sam and me asking us if they reminded us of anyone. This, of course, meant herself. Louisa was a daredevil on any form of climbing or swinging apparatus. It is hardly surprising, really, that she recently completed The Three Peaks Challenge. Louisa & Sam 5.86Louisa 5.86I well remember her on a climbing frame in Tooting in the 1980s. Here she is with her older brother Sam, around the time of her fourth birthday, in May 1986, first gleefully scaling the ramp, then in the process of swinging around the bar.Sam 5.86 Sam, enjoying his lunch on high, would appear to be affecting an air of nonchalance. I took these photographs on a trip, with their mother, Jessica, to a recreation ground in Tooting. It was a sunny day and we all had ice creams. This morning, while Jackie endlessly watered the scorching plants, I finished transporting from the kitchen garden the remaining slabs of stone for her working path, and laid them in place. All but the last three. She shifted those. Bay tree rootsJackie walking by her pathMy first task in this process had been to dig out the roots of a veritable copse of young bay trees that Jackie had cut down some time ago. We decided that the setting of the stones securely in place could wait until tomorrow. This thoroughfare links the head gardener’s potting and general maintenance area through the new shrubbery with what will continue to be called the shady path, even though the overgrown bushes that kept light from it have now been much reduced. The sunlight on the plants by which Jackie is walking in the picture, never reached them when we first came. The decking area is in the middle distance. Thinking it really should have been placed for the evening sun’s western glow, we were puzzled because we didn’t enjoy any. Not until we applied our saw and loppers in earnest did we do so.

Butterfly shelterInsect hotelFor my birthday, three weeks ago now, Luci and Wolf gave me a butterfly shelter and an insect hotel, two very thoughtful presents for the garden. Today, with guidance from she who knows about these things, I located each of them in a suitable position. Twigs needed to be inserted into the green-roofed butterfly shelter; and wheat straw, by September, is required for the hotel. Apparently green lacewings will be attracted by the red door, and different species of bee will choose to crawl through holes of varying diameters in the top section.

Early this evening I repeated yesterday’s walk.Thistle seedsThistle seeds blowing in windThistle seeds caught on web Thistles have run to seed. The strong breeze was tearing some from their moorings. A no doubt disappointed spider, perhaps mistaking them for tasty insects, caught a few of them in its web.

SilageDown the track I discovered the silage, which is clearly the source of the strong aroma that sometimes overpowers the scent of petunias and other sweet-smelling flowers in the garden. The lorry delivering it had dropped some along the way, so I was able to scoop up some dry straw for the hopefully hibernating guests of the insect hotel.

There was choice on the Old Post House menu this evening. Mine was delicious chilli con carne (recipe) with wild rice and peas; Jackie’s was pork rib rack in chilli sauce with mashed potatoes and vegetables. We both chose fruit crumble and custard for dessert, I drank more Wolf Blass, and Jackie, her customary Hoegaarden.

Over The Top

Shady pathOnce Jackie had finished her recent clearing job in the bed on what was originally ‘the shady path’, the very wobbly line of the edging tiles so upset my sensibilities that today I reset them into a more pleasing curve with suitably concentric parallels. This required a little more gravel in the sections where I had moved the bend inwards.

We still hadn’t taken our trip to Ace Reclaim at Hurn, so we decided to do that and divert to Ferndene Farm Shop for the decorative stone on the return journey.

At the architectural salvage depot we did not find anything suitable for restraining the rampant rose, but we did find something which readers may be forgiven for thinking we had quite enough of already. View left from Ace Reclaim benchView towards house from Ace Reclaim benchJackie had noticed when clearing her patch that there was an attractive view either to the left or the right, suggesting it might be quite a good position for a perch. She had in mind a single seat, but we spotted a two-seater bench that could just be squeezed into the car. So we bought it.

We bought two bags of Dorset stone at Ferndene. While we were there, if we were going to place the bench on recently dug soil, it made sense to buy a couple of heucheras and a vinca ‘Illumination’ to enhance the site. Jackie on Ace Reclaim bench 1Jackie on Ace Reclaim bench 2Back at home we positioned our purchase, and Jackie planted the flowers, with three begonias for good measure. I then spread and raked the gravel and we had a sit down.

The rooms in our garden can now be described as fully furnished.

Whilst setting the tiles, I reflected on the fact that, for all the work I have done in the garden during the last three months, this was the first satisfyingly creative piece I had managed. The rest was all clearance and destruction. I also thought of how I had come to be rather a dab hand at positioning these attractive boundary markers. This was in the late 1980s in Newark. Our, albeit still very large, garden there had once been much more extensive. A big section of it had been sold for development, but, for our first few years there, nothing was happening. The original Victorian garden had been bounded by these attractive tiles. Some were now buried by a century’s accumulation of soil, but Jessica and I dug them up for use in creating divisions in a vegetable-growing area out of a rough piece of ground. That was also, incidentally, my first effort at laying gravel paths. I had crushed up bricks and road stone to produce about ten inches of hardcore, and covered this with sand before applying the top surface of gravel. This rather amused John Parlett who had bought the aforementioned building plot and erected his own bungalow. He thought I had gone a bit over the top. He was too tactful to say so, but his knowing smile and the twinkle in his eye said it all. This amazing man, a plasterer by trade, used a Readers Digest manual to teach himself how to instal his plumbing and electricity. John had saved our ceiling, as described on 2nd March 2013.

To return to the tiles, I wasn’t sure I would have enough. It was Mum who came up with the idea that the tiles would have extended into what we then called ‘the waste ground’. There was as yet no boundary, and the land looked pretty much like the deserted jungle next door here. But Mum was right. More tiles were there for the taking. Enough to complete the task.

MaizeMaize 2Early this evening I wandered down Downton Lane and turned right into the field, ploughed in April, where a fine crop of maize was coming to fruition.

Deadly nightshade

Deadly nightshade now blooms in the hedgerow.

Bramble across back driveIt is becoming rather more hazardous to use the back drive to enter the lane, as the brambles sporting the blackberries that I still want to pick when they have ripened, stretch right across it.

The final evolution of the splendid sausage casserole, supplemented by pork rib rack in chilli sauce, mashed potato, and vegetables provided our dinner this evening. Jackie drank sparkling water whilst I consumed a glass of Wolf Blass cabernet sauvignon 2012.

The Mole Catcher

One of the benefits of writing a daily blog over a period of more than two years is that it can be used to jog one’s own memory. Quite often we have checked something by using the search facility. Struggling to remember the name of the architectural salvage outlet where we had bought a door knocker on 9th April, we looked up ‘The Knocker’, and there it was – Ace Reclaim. Actually, I had remembered the Ace bit, which I thought rather impressive.  Unfortunately they were not open today so we couldn’t visit them for something to contain a rose that is straying across the main brick path.

There was, therefore, no excuse to go for a car ride instead of gardening. Boundary cornerWhen I had cut down the last of an invasive privet, I had finally reached the corner of the boundary under siege from next door. (My computer, or maybe WordPress itself, delights in deciding it knows better than I which words I wish to use. It changed the ‘finally’ in the last sentence to ‘fatally’. I do hope the machine is not prescient.) The foliage on the right of the photograph is to be repelled when necessary. The two edges of IKEA wardrobe sections roughly central to the picture mark my assessment of the boundary line, based on metal stakes stuck in the ground. The facing metal poles with worm-eaten wooden struts wired and ragged to them continue along the South side of the back drive. Once I round the compost heap and enter that stretch there are metres and metres of similar bits of wood, metal, and wire marking out territory, between a number of mature trunks of felled trees. Decisions will have to be made about a number of shrubs that line this drive, among which Blackberriesare blackberries coming through from the deserted garden, that are so scrumptious looking and such thick stemmed as to make me think they are cultivated. If anyone does move into the empty house we will need someone like the cartographic decision-makers of nineteenth century Europe, who drew lines across uncharted territory around the globe, to do the same for us.

Stepping stonesDandelion nailed to treeDuring recent weeks Jackie has been removing unnecessary composite paving stones from the mess that is the system of paths in the kitchen garden, and transferring them to her work area to use as stepping stones from there to the new shrubbery, rather like, but longer than, the system I had inserted at The Firs. I helped a little with that today.

It was possibly when prising one of these slabs from its original position that Jackie extracted her dandelion trophy. This had such a magnificent root that she was minded to nail it to one of the pillars of the wisteria arbour where she sometimes takes her rests. She pointed it out to me today. We were both under the erroneous impression that the countryside tradition of nailing moles, regarded as vermin, to fences was in order to keep others away. She thought her action might deter other dandelions. However, that is not the reason rows of moles are lined up like the heads of unpopular members of opposing factions in mediaeval England. They are there to demonstrate to the farmer that his freelance professional mole catcher has done his job. Maybe crows hung in trees could serve as a deterrent to others. There does not seem, however, any consensus on the reason for this practice.

StreamDamselfly 2Damselfly 1This afternoon I ambled down to Shorefield, and, after spending some time leaning on the railings of the bridge over the sun-dappled stream that runs alongside the holiday chalets, returned home. Damselflies flickered iridescent blue over the water seeming to reflect their hue, and coots, keeping well out of fleeting sight paddled in the ochre shadows. So quick were the insects that only when they took a rest in the sunlight was I able to focus on them. I couldn’t actually see this one when I pressed the shutter, but I had seen it land and hoped for the best.

Blackberries pickedBraeburn applesLater, I picked some of the blackberries. As they were mostly emerging from the top of the jungle, I had to teeter on top of the stepladder to reach them. Cleared patchA bird has already started on one of our three Braeburn apples, but we will probably need to buy some cookers anyway for blackberry and apple crumble.

Jackie worked all day on further clearing the patch she had begun yesterday. The exposed root in the picture is a euphorbia about to be clipped and discarded. These are attractive plants, but they self-seed and tend to crop up in the wrong places. Those in our garden have been given a free rein for a number of years, so they must be culled in order to free up what they have choked.

Seeking somewhere different for our dinner tonight, we tried the Rivaaz Indian restaurant in Milton Station Road. The initial disappointment at being informed that they do not serve alcohol, but that we could bring our own, was somewhat assuaged when I remembered we had parked opposite an Off-Licence. It was completely quashed when we noticed that both naga and phal were on the menu. The food was marvelous, and the service friendly, efficient, and unobtrusive. The lamb in my nagin was lean and tender, and Jackie thoroughly enjoyed her chicken jabajaba. Both meals were flavoursome. The rices were cooked to perfection, as was the parata and the mushroom and spinach side dish. We both drank Kingfisher, and neither of us could quite finish our meals.

The Bolt Cutter

Had the rain not driven us inside yesterday, before I’d assembled the first of the benches for which we had purchased the wood and bolts, I may have been saved the rude awakening in the middle of the night when I realised a somewhat more than minor miscalculation. It is customary, you see, for me to make a slight error when attempting D.I.Y. Had I discovered this one before going to bed, I may not have dreamt about it.Dump bench mark 2

The two pairs of garden bench sides required a total of nineteen wooden slats. I also needed the bolts and nuts to fit. So how many nuts and bolts did I buy? With the possible exception of Orlaith, my youngest grandchildren could probably provide the answer.

So. Jackie’s first task this morning was to drive off and buy another nineteen of each.

Whilst she was out I carried on with the job. Had I realised that it would be simpler, and easier on the back, to assemble the seat on a table rather than on the ground, I may have got a little further than raising a sweat. I had just begun to work on a small table by the time Jackie returned.Washer holding slat in place It was her suggestion that I should use two tables and balance a borrowed section of the IKEA wardrobe fence across them. One of the cast iron sides was broken, and so deprived of a hole through which to thread a bolt. I thought it sheer genius to suggest we borrowed a washer from one of Barrie Haynes’s favourite wheelbarrows to secure the bolt. Derrick on dump bench mark 2View from dump bench mark 2Apart from Jackie’s brains, I needed her to help screw in the bolts and tighten the nuts.

When Jackie had photographed me on the Nottingham Castle bench, Becky had commented that the structure came with its own hobo. Naturally, therefore, this shot had to be reprised as I sat admiring the vista opposite.

Both our sheds were leaking, because their roofing felt has perished, and one had rotten barge boards. Rod’s Repairs, who are to be highly recommended, came and fixed them today, as I began bolting the  seats into our second spare set of cast iron side pieces. Having been well schooled in the process with the first one this morning, I didn’t need to take Jackie away from her own gardening tasks too much, except to hold the structure in place near the end of the job.

Rubbish from compostCleared areaExcept also for the car ride, that is. We needed some different length bolts so went back to Travis Perkins for them. They were closed. So we did an about turn and drove to Knights at Lymington. They were closed. So we did another about turn and went to Milford Supplies who had not had the right length this morning, but had some a bit longer. We bought those.

Apart from interruptions, Jackie had finished emptying our predecessors’ compost maker, and, as usual, been astounded at what they had thought might make good compost. In fairness, it may have been the dog that buried the bone. She had also heavily pruned some overgrown euphorbia thus revealing some other treasures, such as a clematis, a camellia, and a rose that had all been obscured by it.

Bolt cutterDerrick tightening boltsHaving returned home I continued with my task. The sides of the bench I was working on still contained bolts well rusted in. Considerable pressure was required to sever these with the heavy duty cutter. As I clipped through sixteen of these I thought of a story my old Westminster Social Services friend Ken Coleman once delighted in telling. One of Ken’s responsibilities involved regular visits to a residential care home for people with learning difficulties. Each time he attended the establishment he was presented with the bolt cutter challenge, as was virtually every other visitor.

One staggeringly strong young male resident was engaged in what must have been quite a long term fencing task. This involved cutting through an Alcatraz type metal trellis with a cutter most other people would be unable to lift, yet alone employ. He was immensely proud of his implement and what he could do with it. The unwary visitor would be given a demonstration of how easy it was to cut through the cable, and invited to have a go. The initial wide welcoming grin would, almost imperceptibly take on a wicked twinkle as he handed over the weapon and supervised the ensuing struggle. His victim would be unable even to prise apart the handles, and very quickly forced to admit defeat. Our young man would take back his cutter, and beam with unashamed pride.

Our second refurbished garden bench has been deposited in what is still the kitchen garden, in readiness for its metamorphosis into a rose one. Jackie on refurbished benchWhen the transformation is View from kitchen gardencomplete, the seat from which Jackie is, when I am not standing in the way with a camera, looking out down the Heligan path, will be set back against the fence behind it.

We dined this evening on pork spare ribs in barbecue sauce; wild rice and peas; and Heinz Beanz. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Cotes du Rhone.

A Manly Garment

A couple of days ago Jackie had achieved a first. Seeking a small table for use in the garden, she had unsuccessfully visited various shops in Highcliffe. A wave of inspiration led her to try her luck in the Efford Recycling Centre, purely as a shopper without the excuse of having something to deposit. There she purchased a table, three hanging baskets, a chair, and some shelves. She also spotted something on which she wanted my opinion before buying it.

This was a somewhat rickety garden bench, not old, and in pretty good condition. It was still there when we visited the dump for the purpose of dumping. We bought it and tightened up its bolts when we got home. We also came away with a couple of cast iron sides to another bench for us to assemble; two window boxes, and a plant pot.

View from repositioned Castle benchView from dump benchThe Castle bench, in its assembled state, is now very heavy indeed. However, we inched it along to make room for what will forever be termed the dump bench, which is facing the opposite direction. This means that those sitting on the Nottingham Castle replica have a shifted, and rather more attractive, perspective in view. Jackie on dump benchHere Jackie sits on the new acquisition admiring the scene from there.

Derrick tightening Castle bench 1Derrick tightening Castle bench 2Derrick tightening Castle bench 3Derrick tightening Castle bench 4Derrick tightening Castle bench 5In repositioning the Castle bench we realised that its bolts also needed tightening. So, like any self-respecting motor mechanic unable to lift what he is working on, I crawled underneath the seat with a socket set and a couple of ordinary spanners

for the two longer bolts. Trapped in that position I was prey to the paparazza, who had a field day.

Incidentally, I owe my apparel to Sam and Louisa. The trousers, excellent for carrying all kinds of stuff in their numerous pockets, were cast off by my son sometime in the late 1990s. I suppose it is acceptable for a father to wear hand-me-downs from his son. It must have been around the year 2000 that Louisa spent some time in Sydney in Australia, with her friend Rebecca, and brought me back the T-shirt from Manly beach.

In January 2008, soon after Sam and Holly’s wedding in a Margaret River winery, Louisa, Errol, and my granddaughter Jessica Thompson, revisited my daughter’s Sydney haunts. Derrick & Jessica in Oz 1.08By coincidence, I was wearing the same souvenir from Louisa when Errol took this photograph.

Having successfully tightened up two benches, I had the bit between my teeth. Off we drove to Travis Perkins in Milford on Sea and bought a supply of Red Grandis eucalyptus hardwood; nuts and bolts; and a bolt cutter to sever some that had been rusted into their holes. We needed 19 four foot lengths of timber, and a kind young staff member called Nathan volunteered to cut the much longer strips to the required size.

I got my head together to work out the process of measuring, drilling holes with precision, and assembling the sides of our other dump purchase, and, with a little help from our resident D.I.Y. expert, began the construction. Then it rained. Heavily. With thunder and lightning. We grabbed tools and made a dash for cover.

There is no limit to what, given gestation time, and a certain amount of nurturing, a sausage casserole (recipe) can develop into. Thus the liver casserole of a day or two ago, evolved from the sausage sauce (and one sausage) being supplemented by more onions, mushrooms, liver, and tomato puree. By then the juices were richer and even fuller of flavour. Liver and bacon casseroleTonight it became the liver and bacon casserole, which Jackie termed ‘the evolution of the sausage casserole’. Absolutely delicious. Maybe it will carry a few chillies  tomorrow. With her meal Jackie drank Hoegaarden. My choice was a Cotes du Rhone Villages 2012, brought over from France by Mo and John.