Misty morning

Slowly, mist dispersed from the garden as we drank our morning coffee.

Jackie drove us to The First gallery for midday where we joined the party celebrating the fortieth year of the artwork exhibitions at the home of Margery and Paul. This was a very happy occasion with friends gathered by this mother and son over a lifetime. We are pleased to be counted members of this honoured group.

In keeping with the theme there was a ruby coloured beetroot soup with a number of other ingredients. The ingenious Paul had devised a method of topping the soup with a creamy Ruby soupSoup with female symbol40. This was done with sterilised garden wire dipped into the mixture and laid on rather like the shamrock sprayed onto the head of a pint of Guinness by dextrous bar staff. I was fortunate enough to be presented with a perfect specimen, but they didn’t all come out like that. One young woman decided that hers, also including a lentil version looked like the female symbol which she invited me to photograph.

We had all been invited to bring an inflated red balloon. On arrival we were informed that there would be a prize for the last person to hold an unburst one. The secret was to keep yours out of the way of broach pins and forks, toasting or otherwise. Leo, the youngest member of the group clung to his two until the very end.Leo and his Mum

Margery had made a splendid selection of small snacks and a superb chocolate sponge The First cakecake which formed the centrepiece of the desserts table which was soon emptied.  She made the first half cut Cake cuttingacross and directed Paul to complete it. He was, after all, part of the partnership and moreover had decorated it. We toasted the pair with Champagne heavily laced with cranberry juice. One guest was keen to help our hostess protect her balloon. MargeryElizabeth, in the foreground of this picture, didn’t have a red balloon, so she painted the legend: ‘I AM RED HONEST’ on  hers.

Leo was very quiet throughout, but the conversation at one point did turn to methods of preventing small babies from disturbing parents’ slumber. When Jackie told us a story about one of the elderly ladies she had cared for thirty years ago, a tongue twister competition ensued. This client’s childhood would have gone back to the end of the nineteenth century when her mother had the perfect antidote to nighttime tears. She would make a ‘tea’ with a ‘penn’orth of poppy heads from the apothecary’. Quite a lot of spluttering accompanied somewhat inebriated efforts to repeat this.

It was quite close to sunset as the party broke up and we all went home. Driving due West into a magnificent sunset Jackie turned off the M27 taking the Fawley road, in an effort to get me into the forest before the sun disappeared. She didn’t quite manage that, but, as Sunsey BeaulieuSunset Dibden PurlieuSunset Beaulieu RiverSunset Hatchet Pondso often, the shots were more attractive with clouds lit from below. The pools on the heathland near Debden Purlieu, the Beaulieu River, and Hatchet Pond all added their reflective charm to the views. This was perhaps the perfect close to a ruby day.

By the time Jackie dropped me at Milford on Sea so that I could walk home via the cliff top and Shorefield, darkness had set in, but there was just enough light reflecting off The Sunset with cow parsleySunset over The SolentSolent for me to catch a bit more of sundown along the coast. As I walked up the dimly lit Downton Lane I removed my black waterproof coat and carried it so that the headlights of oncoming traffic could gleam on my buff sports jacket.

After the spread laid on at The First, a small bowl of Jackie’s chicken jalfrezi and egg fried rice accompanied by the last of the Cotes du Rhone Villages (red, of course) wine sufficed for our evening sustenance.

The Weather

Those of my readers currently enjoying warm, or tolerating hot, summers in other parts of the world may not be aware of the weather we can normally expect in England less than a month away from our shortest day; and therefore be unable to appreciate the pleasant surprise we are now experiencing.

It was a springlike day as I took my Hordle Cliff top walk this morning. Ragged autumn Autumn leaves and rose hipsBlackberriesMushroomleaves and the more seasonal rose hips betrayed the true season, while fresh blackberry fruit belied it, as they each brightened the hedgerows; and mushrooms continued to flourish.Field

A magpie strutted about one of Roger’s fields. Like all avian predators, these birds normally Magpietake off at the approach of a human being, so I was lucky to obtain this shot, especially as it had its beady eye on me.

GrassNew grass, which will not grow at less than 10 degrees centigrade, was pushing its way up through fresh soil heaped around the posts of the recently replaced street lighting.

Camellia budsWe fear for our pink camellias, cajoled into producing unseasonal buds, for when the freezing frosts arrive, as they surely will, these must all perish.

Dog walkersGroup on shingleOn the cliff footpath and the shingle below, numerous dog walkers and family groups have been encouraged to emerge into the sunlight; and the charity books for sale outside a house on Booksthe way up to Shorefield, having recently given away to plants, are once more placed against the wall.

August 2014, normally the height of our summer, was one of the coldest on record, with some temperatures the lowest for 100 years. Perhaps all this goes some way to explaining why we Brits find the weather such a talking point.

Last night the air was so mild, and the Veranda so packed, that Jackie asked the waiting staff to open the windows beside our table. One of our favourite Hampshire Indian restaurants,the establishment coped brilliantly with the influx of customers flowing from the town’s Christmas shopping evening. The food was as good as ever. It was delivered promptly with efficiency and humour. This splendid eating place could not, however, have bettered the Old Post House chicken jalfrezi and delicious egg fried rice that Jackie produced this evening. This is not grovelling flannel, it is a genuine fact. The meal was completed with New York cheesecake. Jackie drank Peroni and I chose Saint Vigni Cotes du Rhone 2012.

The Skip

28th November 2014

This is the fifth and final day of the black and white flower photo challenge. On the second I posted a close-up of cow parsley that is having a second flowering this year. I finished my response to the challenge with a shot of what this plant usually looks like in winter.Cow parsley

The Sun NewspaperSkipButterflis on skipApart from the soggy newspaper atop a skip in which butterflies perched on pearls in Shorefield Road, it was a sunless morning when I took my Hordle Cliff top walk in reverse.

Openreach vans are regular visitors to this area. I stopped and chatted to a gentleman Openreach engineerworking on a cab, as we now know the engineers call the cabinet. When, during the first of my recent calls to BT, the Indian adviser told me that the problem was in the cabinet, I would have been even more confused had he said ‘cab’.

This evening Jackie drove us to Wickham where we met Elizabeth and her friend Cathy at the Chesapeake Antiques Centre open evening. Mulled wine and mince pies were served and a beautiful singer performed. I found it difficult to negotiate the crowds in the confined spaces of the corridors between the packed rooms and display cases, so I soon repaired to the Veranda Indian restaurant where I waited for the others, and Cathy’s husband Paul to join me. There we enjoyed our usual splendid meal and Indian lagers.

On our return home I was once more unable to access the internet, and had to post this the next day.

Teenage Creativity

One aspect of Matthew Lewis’s ‘The Monk’ that I did not mention yesterday is that this youthful writer loses no opportunity to insert one of his poems or ballads into the text. Mostly using rhyming iambic pentameter these are all rather good. The only one that isn’t is presented as written by a young boy in need of advice about his work. ‘Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogine’, for example, can be found on Google.

This had me reflecting overnight on my own teenage versifications, in which I was encouraged by the gentle Jesuit, Fr. John Harriott S.J., who was the teacher for my A level year of 1960. I still possess the exercise book into which I transferred all these works in my best handwriting. The ink is a little faded now, but I see I hadn’t then lost my copperplate r.The Examination011 Here is one of the shortest with which I also experimented with some kind of rather doubtful free verse. I must have spent some exam time daydreaming. Hopefully I had finished the paper.

It was Father Harriott who wanted to enter me for S(cholarship) level G(eneral) C(ertificate) (of) E(education). Because I was not applying to any University the headmaster would not allow it. In those days you were not told your marks – just pass or fail. My mentor took the trouble of applying to the examination board for my marks and telling me that I had achieved S level standard. Which was rather nice.

PansyFor today’s black and white photo challenge I posted on Facebook a bejewelled pansy. It seemed to me that the markings on these playful plants lent themselves perfectly to representation in monochrome.

This morning Jackie drove us to Wroughton to visit Frances who fed us on sausage and bacon butties (cobs or baps if you prefer) and then drove us to the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery to visit an exhibition based on the work of the teenaged J.M.W. Turner.

In a cabinet in one of the museum rooms sat a typewriter from 1914 which was very like Typewriterthe one on which I, after a fashion, taught myself to type at my Aunt Stella’s home. The font on the letter in the museum is similar to that in the typed versions of my poem mentioned above, that I have tucked into the notebook. Using this ancient device was a laborious process in which pressure on the keys stamped ink from a ribbon onto the page, and the shift key was a lever you pulled across at the end of each line.

In a case in the corridor leading to the art gallery stood an easel containing what for me Winter in Pendlebury - L.S.Lowrywas actually the highlight of the trip, L.S. Lowry’s ‘Winter in Pendlebury’, labelled their Pick of the Month.

turnertalk460Seven of the eight Turner paintings were executed in 1791-92, when he was 16-17. His teenage skill was incredible, yet it perhaps needs a certain amount of imagination to recognise the style he was to develop that was so far ahead of his time.

On our return home Jackie and I dined at The Plough Inn at Tiptoe. We both had the enormous rack of pork ribs and could eat no sweet. Jackie drank Beck’s and I drank Doom Bar.



The Monk

One of the benefits of our mild Autumn has been that non-hardy plants, like this fuchsia Fuchsia quasarQuasar, are still out in the garden. Normally a delicate pink and lilac on a white ground, this picture was my selection for the third day of my Black and White Flower photograph submissions.

Edward Sherred, landscaper, called this morning with his wife. Every couple of years he had pruned the tops of the variegated hollies in the front garden. Our predecessors had the benefit of free tree surgery and his wife used the branches to make Christmas wreaths. Having enjoyed a similar arrangement at Lindum House I was happy for us to continue the process. He did a good job.

Stinging nettles and sticky williesBlackberry blossomDandelionIt was a dank day for my Hordle Cliff top walk this morning. Stinging nettles and sticky willies were sprouting again in the hedgerows. Blackberries had been conned into producing more blossom, and a brave little dandelion had forced its way up through a driveway’s gravel.Hordle Cliff beach

Birds were silently snuggled up in their nests, and The Needles were shrouded in mist. I met no other creature in an hour’s walk.

‘The Castle of Otranto’ is hailed as the first gothic novel, and Matthew Lewis’s ‘The Monk’ as the ultimate one. This work, which I finished reading today, has all the ingredients. Set in Madrid at the time of the Inquisition, we have a dubious monastery and a doomed convent; we have wild weather and benighted forests; we have superstition and sorcery; we have blind belief and blasphemy; we have saintly heroes and sinful religious; we have cunning and deception; we have a sadistic prioress and a seduced and seducing prior; we have terror and torture; we have ghosts, ghastly dungeons, and damp sepulchral crypts strewn with unburied bodies; and we have rape and murder most foul.

Hammer (‘The House of Horror’) Films would have relished it, but it was a French-Spanish production directed by Dominic Moll that presented the adaptation released in 2011.

It hard to believe that Lewis was barely twenty when he completed this fast-moving and insightful novel that has intrigued readers ever since 1796. My Folio Society edition benefits from an introduction by Devendra P. Varma and is embellished by the wood The Monk Illustrationengravings of George Tute, who must have thought it was Christmas when asked to illustrate a book packed with such dramatic incident. He is certainly up to the task.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delightful chicken jalfrezi (recipe) and savoury rice (recipe). I finished the chianti.


Find The Crop

The rain was back in Downton today, but uninterrupted internet access wasn’t. Which would you like to read about first?

Ok, I’ll be gentle and start with the weather. The fog warning from the invisible Needles lighthouse sounded above the pattering of raindrops as I took my Hordle Cliff top walk just Muddy fieldafter midday. Cattle, having been brought inside for the winter, have left the sodden fields. Rainwater left its film on the camera lens.


A pair of barely discernible yachts were out on The Solent.

I will now attempt not to rant about BT. The facts should speak for themselves. Not counting the man who connected Infinity Broadband on 10th of this month, we have now been visited by three Openreach engineers. It was number three, this morning, who confirmed that we had been mis-sold our package, which I hadn’t asked for in the first place. After he left I spent the best part of two hours on the phone, mostly pacing up and down the sitting room listening to music. In fact this could easily have constituted my day’s walk. But it the mood I was in at the end of it all I needed to go out and get wet.

The answer is that our house is 2km from the cabinet in the street, and problems develop if you are 1km away. BT have the equipment to check this at the time of installation without having to enter the property.

I began the day’s call to the sales department in England. I was transferred to the technical help team in India, and back to a woman in England whose task it was now to start the process of getting us back to our previous contract. It was when the technical man, putting me on hold for the third time advised me to wait, sit back and relax, that I very politely stated that I had no option but to wait, yet relax was what I would not be doing.

The upshot is that we must wait ten working days for a complaint to be processed and five for us to be put back on our old broadband. That is a fortnight and a week.

SaladAfter a salad lunch, served with Jackie’s usual artistry, and four failed attempts, I managed to cling to the web just long enough to post my second day’s photograph for the black and white challenge. I chose a tiny crop from a picture of an unseasonal cow parsley head that still blooms this November.

Cow parsley 2Cow parsley 3Can you find this little jewel in the full frame?

Had there been any sun today, it would have been setting by the time I was able to work on this post. We are dining on Jackie’s chicken jalfrezi (recipe) tonight, but I may not be able to access The Net then, so I am sending it off now.

Black And White Challenge

This morning I received a photographic challenge from Kanan Buta. This requires the posting on Facebook of a black and white floral picture each day for five days, on each of which a challenge is to be issued to another friend. I have plenty of pictures of summer flowers that could easily be converted to monochrome, but it seemed to me that a challenge accepted in November should be photographed currently and that these colourful subjects should be chosen for their form. In discussing this with Jackie, she came up with the perfect suggestion for this, the anniversary year of the commencement of The Great War. This was a skeletal poppy head, stripped of all flesh yet still standing in the garden. Here is my first day’s entry:Poppy head

On this the first bright, finger-tingling day, taking my Hordle Cliff top walk, I happily obtained a more than ample haul for my five days. I will include one in each of my subsequent WordPress posts.

Road maintenanceAs I walked down Downton Lane, a cloud of dust billowing from Shorefield Road alerted me to road repairs that were being undertaken. A cutting blade was being applied to the edge of the tarmac. Rooks

The rooks are nesting again and soon Shorefield Road will be reverberating with their cries.

Frost on grassFrost on leavesCondensationFrost was coating the fields and hedgerows, and condensation, reminiscent of that described in my ‘Armistice Day’ post, lined the bus shelter in the corner of which a daddy longlegs had met its end.

Isle of Wight and The NeedlesWoman walking dogsThe sea was calm; The Needles, sharp and clear, pierced the pastel skyline; and a woman with a pair of dogs crunched along the shingle.

We had a little less disruption in our internet access today, which is why I had the confidence to wait until tonight to post my offering. Given that the fourth engineer is booked in tomorrow, I do hope there will be difficulties in the morning, otherwise it will be like a visit to a doctor, when you suddenly feel better whilst sitting in the GP’s patient chair.

This evening Jackie produced a splendid pork casserole for our dinner. This was accompanied by crisp carrots, brussels sprouts, and broccoli; roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding. Dessert was steamed syrup sponge and custard. Jackie drank Peroni and I drank Via di Cavallo chianti 2012.