40+ MPH


Unless I am seeking good light for photography, I am fairly impervious to the weather. Not so the head gardener. Jackie is usually very even tempered. Except when we have a heavy wind (or another driver is ‘up [her] bottom’ on the road). Then she wanders around the house muttering imprecations, before dashing out into the garden bringing her own whirlwind to lay down anything that the weather hasn’t yet dislodged, and picking up hanging baskets that have succumbed. The tall ecclesiastical candlesticks used as planters are particularly vulnerable.SkylineBeech and birch branches 1Beech and birch branches 2Windswept shrubberyWindswept birchWindswept grassWindblown bird feeders

Today’s gusts ran at 40+ MPH.

We needed to buy some more bird food. Now that the crows have found it, replenishment is required more often. The small birds who made it to the swinging containers this morning were disappointed as must have been Eric and the larger pigeons as they scrabbled around underneath for droppings.

When Jackie bought the feed this morning, and loads for us and our Easter guests, her full trolley was blown across the car park as she began to decant the contents into the car. A kind young gentleman wheeled it back to her.

Later, the sun emerged and the wind speed increased. The blue tits and other small birds were happy to perch on their now filled swinging feeders, and a young dove felt safe enough to leave its rooftop camouflage to feast on suet balls.Grass and ivy on chimney potblue tit on swinging feederDoveDove and suet balls
Lal Quilla meal

This evening we enjoyed the usual excellent meal at Lal Quilla in Lymington. They were quite full, which is probably why we didn’t have the usual chat with the chef. We both had well filled, juicy,  prawn puri starters with fresh salad, drank draught Kingfisher, and shared a perfect parata. My main course was delicious king prawn naga with special fried rice; Jackie’s was excellent chicken biriani.

In Search Of Daylight

Eric, as Jackie has now termed our visiting pheasant, scarpered as soon as I entered the garden this morning, but the less timid robin commandeered the bird feeder, and crows circled the chimney pot. Soon they will be vying for territorial ownership of it.RobinCrows

Camellia 1Camellia 2

Through the jungle that is the garden of North Breeze next door, another camellia, looking a bit dog-eared, has thrust upwards in search of daylight,Vibernum

and our viburnum, now we have opened up the garden, and cut back this plant, has no need to climb so high before blooming.

Sawn trunk

The stump Aaron has trimmed on the back drive presents glorious golden abstracts.

This afternoon I finished reading the fourth of G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Father Brown’ stories, ‘The Secret of Father Brown’.Goldcrest 1Goldcrest 2

Later, when the skies had dulled over, and rain begun to fall, from inside the sitting room, Jackie spotted a goldcrest in the shrubbery. From a good metre our side of the window I pointed my Canon SX700 HS, set on auto, at the bird, which had by then dropped onto paving beneath. I pressed the shutter an instant before it flew off. There was no second chance. The uncropped image above is the whole scene. Beneath it is the cropped version. I publish both, not to display my dubious photography, but in praise of the camera.

Keen to begin watching ‘Agatha Christie’s Marple’ in time to give me a reasonable chance of staying awake, Jackie decided to dictate the description of our evening meal. ‘We had the same as yesterday and Jackie drank water’, she said. Who am I to argue?

Durmast House Gardens

Mouse on Easter decoration

Those of you who have followed the movement of Jackie’s mice will be interested to learn that one has now left the windowsill and mounted our Easter decoration, no doubt hoping to feed on the eggs of varying sizes suspended from a painted twig Jackie has placed in Becky’s vase.Pine in Durmast House gardenDurmast House gardenMossy root and daffodilsDaffodilsBench

When their gardens are opened by members of the National Gardens Scheme, owners have to take a chance on the weather that will greet their published date. The gardens of Durmast House had the misfortune to be open on this wet, blustery day. Attendance had to have been most disappointing. Jackie drove us there.Path through shrubbery

It was easier to photograph scenes with no members of the public present than those containing a few stalwarts. The photograph of the bench was inspired by the work of WordPress blogger iosatel who would have produced an image in black and white.

Couple by magnolia

MagnoliaThe first couple I saw admired an impressive magnolia.Rockery

Others investigated the well stocked rockery.Jackie

I was a bit slow so Jackie waited for me for a while, seated on the rose garden bench. As it was a bit early for roses, those of the prim variety nestled underneath.Skimmia

Nearby skimmia berries glistened,Fritillary

and a single fritillary made an early appearance.Hellebores

Just one of the wide selection of hellebores was not present in our own garden.Plants for saleArum lilies

Whilst I chatted to one of the brave windswept women who managed the plants for sale stall she expressed wonder that her offerings, especially the arum lilies had remained still enough to be photographed. This required a bit of panning.

When the owners, Mr and Mrs Philip Daubeney  purchased Durmast House in 1991 the gardens were completely derelict and overgrown. The gardens had been designed by Gertrude Jekyll in 1907. Having acquired the plans from the University of California, Berkeley, the ongoing process of restoration was begun. Each year a new project is undertaken, using those plans, which involves considerable research as plant names have changed, some are only available from abroad, and others are not available at all. Careful substitution has then to be made.

This garden will again be open to the public in June. We will be back.

Jackie produced a wonderful liver casserole, mashed swede and potato, and crisp carrots and cabbage, followed by apricot and prune crumble and custard. I finished the Saint-Emilio and my lady abstained.

Muscles I Had Forgotten

Yesterday evening I attempted a first. That is to watch a whole episode of Agatha Christie’s ‘Marple’ on catch up TV without falling asleep. Finally descending into a Firs gawp, I failed.

Aaron and I spent the best part of today transporting the paving bricks from Paving bricks 1

Old MiltonPaving bricks 2

to our garden.

The weight of the loads meant we had to make three trips in Aaron’s van. We operated like a mini fire bucket chain. At the donor’s home I handed the bricks to Aaron as he loaded his van, and we reversed the process at the other end. As we got deeper into the vehicle Aaron climbed inside and pushed the contents across to me, then we both piled them up. We had the distinct impression that, by the time we had finished, the quantity of bricks had multiplied. I used muscles I had forgotten I possessed.

This afternoon’s ‘Marple’ started at 5 p.m. I believe my eyelids may have taken a momentary rest during the adverts, but otherwise I managed to watch the whole episode.

This evening we dined on gammon, mashed potato, piquant cauliflower cheese, and crisp carrots and cabbage. Jackie drank Hoegarden.My choice was Chateau Saint Pierre Lussac Saint-Emilion 2012.

A Time Check

We all like a camomile lawn. In the right place. What is not so attractive is an onion lawn in the wrong place. Jackie has been working her way along our paths eradicating smelly alliums self-seeded and creating such a carpet. With their heady aroma permeating my nostrils, I took a hoe to a section this morning, without the aid of my stick. The bulbs didn’t all emerge, but I wasn’t about to get down on my knees to dig them out.Allium rakingEucalyptus bark I took a short break to photograph the delicate pastel shades of the peeling eucalyptus bark. The wheels were generously left behind by the previous owners.Camellias and clock

Peering through the shrubbery, I admired Becky and Ian’s Christmas clock on the wall of the house.Robin, blue tit and clockRobin and clock

Unaware that a blue tit behind it was making a beeline for the feeder, a robin popped down to check the time.Hat with pansies

On the side wall outside the kitchen the leaden Lucille Scott hat bought at The First Gallery now sprouts pansies.


Slight constipation is one of the side effects of Co-codamol. When she returned from shopping Jackie brought back something she thought might relieve it. My friend John should approve of the brand.

Answering an advertisement in Streetlife, Jackie drove us to the donor of 725 small paving blocks which should be just the job for our rose garden. Most of the concrete and bricks dug out of the former kitchen garden have been used elsewhere. I then confirmed with Aaron that he could transport them in his van tomorrow.

This evening Jackie fed us on roast gammon, piquant cauliflower cheese (recipe), and crisp carrots and green beans followed by Aunt Bessie’s rhubarb crumble and custard. She (Jackie, not Aunt Bessie) drank sparkling water, and I finished the Chateauneuf-du-Pape.


We began this morning by Jackie driving me to the Post Office at Milford on Sea to post and Easter present with a card I had made yesterday featuring lambs who first appeared in the second ovine picture illustrating ‘The Nursery Field’.

Soon after we returned home Giles popped in for a visit. Knowing that I was reading G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories, he brought me two published articles that he knew would interest me; one by himself, and the other by Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentine short-story writer who is one of his favourites.Chesterton

Giles Darvill’s own article was published in The Chesterton Review of November 1996, the cover of which bears rather a good pencil drawing of the subject. Entitled ‘With the Chestertons in Poland’, this deals with a trip the English writer took in 1927. It is based on letters and the log of Giles’s aunt, Dorothy Collins who was Chesterton’s secretary, still working for him at her death sixty two years later.Chesterton  photo

BorgesI couldn’t do much to enhance this photograph featuring the list of people above it, including Aunt Dorothy labelled 3 on the far right.

Borges’s piece is a general observation making comparisons with such writers as Edgar Allan Poe and Franz Kafka.

I read and enjoyed both essays.

This afternoon I took a painful walk around the garden and a few yards into Downton Lane. My difficulty was no doubt brought about by, despite the Dosset box, forgetting to take my breakfast medication.

DaffodilsClockI am happy to be able to say that many of the daffodils that Jackie planted on the back drive in the autumn have survived the attention of the small creatures mentioned in ‘Preparing For The Party’.

For Christmas, Becky and Ian gave us two garden clocks. One has been placed on the back wall of the house, and the other on the orange shed door at the far end of our plot, seen here through the peeling eucalyptus.Dandelions and ladybird

On Downton Lane a black spotted red ladybird was making its way towards bright yellow dandelions.

This evening we dined on rack of pork ribs in barbecue sauce, Jackie’s special fried rice and green beans followed by baklavas. Jackie drank Hoegaarden; I finished the Teroldego Rotaliano and began Blason des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2011.

A Beach Beauty

This afternoon I scanned a batch of colour slides from a holiday at Iwade in August 1972. One has already featured in ‘The Hat’. Here are some of the others:Pebbles on sand 8.72

Becky 8.72

Jackie 8.72 2

Pebbles on the sand at the Isle of Sheppey were quite thinly spread near the water’s edge, but covered the beach further up, where Becky trudged over them undeterred, but with great concentration; and Jackie made use of the car blanket to render the stones a little softer to the touch.Man with pram 8.72

From a cafe in which we took refreshments I noticed a gentleman apparently in charge of a pram on the sea wall. Was the pram occupied? Had he turned his back on it for a purpose?Barrels 8.72

I cannot remember what these rows of stout barrels with rusting hoops were doing in Iwade, apart from providing an interesting subject. I don’t think they ever contained the wallies mentioned below.

Michael and horse 8.72Michael, Matthew and horse 8.72Matthew and horse 8.72

Michael and Matthew, both with a certain trepidation, stopped to feed foliage to a horse in a field. First Mat hid behind his big brother; then joined him; and finally managed the task alone.Canterbury Cathedral 8.72

We took a trip to Canterbury where I photographed the cathedral down a side street in which Becky turns towards me, sporting her crocheted hat.Jackie 8.72 3 - Version 2

Jackie 8.72 3 - Version 3

My final iPhoto project today was to crop a picture of the basking beach beauty and convert it to black and white. Which do you prefer? Jackie had, incidentally, made her own chokers, some of which were to be sold from her ‘Kingston Market Stall’.

Mr Pink provided this evening’s fish and chips, pickled onions and gherkins, with which I drank more of the Teroldego Rotaliano, and Jackie didn’t. Both the onions and the also pickled gherkins are sold in ‘chippies’ from large jars.on the counter. There may also be jars of pickled eggs. A chippy is the colloquial term for a fish and chip shop.  The slang name for a pickled gherkin is a ‘wally’ which according to kgb answers ‘was a London slang corruption of the word “Olive”. When Eastern European immigrants arrived in the late 19th Century they carried a liking for pickled cucumbers which, like olives, were sold from wooden barrels and also began to be referred to as wallies (mostly in the east-end of London).’

The Car Wreck

This morning I scanned a dozen more slides taken at Amity Grove in September 1971. Unusually for my collection, this particular batch had suffered some deterioration, and even a bit of creasing despite being encased in plastic mounts. This resulted in streaks and blobs of blue pigmentation which required quite a lot of retouching.Honesty 9.71 002

Through holes in the fence at the bottom of the garden we could glimpse our neighbours’ honesty.Michael and Mark 9.71Michael, James and Mark 9.71

Michael and his cousins James and Mark were hard at work building a ship beneath the apple tree. It is fascinating that each of these boys grew to form their own individual construction firms. In ‘Leaving Home’, I tell the story of how James helped Michael with his first professional building project. As far as I know this photograph shows the nearest my nephew ever came to displaying a ‘builder’s bum’. He was to specialise in plastering, whilst Mark’s expertise is in roofing.Michael 9.71Jackie 9.71 002Matthew 9.71 002Becky 9.71 004

The workers took a tea break in the kitchen, where Jackie broke eggs and Matthew and Becky enjoyed their lunch. Jackie had created the floral murals. She didn’t normally drop the eggs from a great height, but was prevailed upon to do so on this occasion by the photographer. The glass milk bottle on the table would have been left on the doorstep early in the morning by a man driving an electric float.

This afternoon I burnt more branches in the old wheelbarrow on the back drive.Long tailed tit

The tits on the bird feeder did not, on this occasion, flit off at my approach. One, of the long-tailed variety, even had the temerity to turn its back on me.Model car wreck

We have unearthed a model car that has seen better days, and are saving it for our friend Barrie’s collection.

Jackie’s superb sausage casserole, always better the second time round, was what we enjoyed eating for our evening meal. It was accompanied by mashed potato and crisp cauliflower and green beans. I drank some Teroldego Rotaliano superoire riserva 2010 from a bottle given to me by Shelly and Ron for Christmas. Jackie drank sparkling water.

By courtesy of Lidl’s mystery shopper, we had twice as many baklavas bearing the label ‘De Luxe’, from which to make our dessert selection. This is how it happened:

Jackie tossed one packet into her half filled trolley, left that in the aisle, nipped across to the next row for something she had forgotten, and returned to her shopping.

It wasn’t where she had left it.

She scoured the store and discovered what looked like her prospective purchases in an unaccompanied trolley some aisles away. Closer inspection revealed her goods beneath a covering of numerous other ‘De Luxe’ items. No-one appeared to belong to the wheeled baskets. The additional items she returned to their shelves and proceeded to the checkout to settle her bill. Whilst totting up she realised she now had two packets of baklavas. I’m not complaining.

The Bees Are Out

Propped up by my walking stick, I managed to make my way through the garden and a hundred yards or so down Downton Lane this morning.The Royal Oak car park

The Royal Oak pub car park had a look of spring about it.Catkins

Catkins swayed in the breeze.Dove

A pair of doves, which we think must be the parents of the baby that died, regularly feast on suet balls in the bird feeder.Bee on pulmonaria 3Bee on pulmonaria 2Bee on pulmanaria B:W

Hairy humble bees gravitated to the equally hirsute pulmonaria,Bee on hellebore

and the shy hellebores. I had to be quick to photograph this one, because it was about to vanish under the hanging head of the flower.

Sausage casserole (recipe) is far too bland a term for Jackie’s classic dish on which she fed us this evening. Mashed potato, crisp carrots and brussels sprouts accompanied the most tasty melange. The meat content of this particular culinary creation consisted of chunky chorizo sausages from Ferndene Farm Shop; smaller Lidl pork chipolatas; and slabs of lean gammon steaks from Sainsbury’s basics cooking bacon. So much did I salivate on ladling out my helping that some of my own juices slipped down my windpipe, producing a fit of coughing. Finishing the Cotes du Rhone eased this. Jackie drank sparkling water.

It may be of interest that Jackie’s version is a development of mine, which was a development of Delia Smith’s. Delia is a brilliant tutor for all the basic cooking methods. That is why I learned a great deal from her. But I soon wanted to spice her meals up a bit. And Jackie takes this a bit further.

The Topper And The Times

Our resident pheasant is becoming more accustomed to human presence. This morning, instead of taking, squawking, to the air, it strutted silently off along the paths as Jackie walked up the garden. From indoors, we can hear it conversing with other birds. Soon the greenfinches will spend whole days at a time shrilly screeching from the beech tree. The sharp grating tones of the larger bird should certainly syncopate with this, thus intensely irritating the head gardener.

My knee pain is responding to the medication, and, with the aid of the stick, I am getting around the house and garden more comfortably.

Yesterday I had scanned colour slides from the summer of 1971. Today I travelled two years further back in my archives to June 1969, where Michael was taking as much delight in entertaining Matthew as he was Becky in August ’71. Indeed, Michael’s expression in the second picture below is identical to that in the daisy image yesterday.Michael and Matthew 6.69 003Michael and Matthew 6.69 004Matthew and Michael 6.69Michael and Matthew 6.69 005

Whatever Mat was being taught to do with the dried stalks, he looked quite pleased to have got the idea.

I was intrigued to see The Topper comic lying on the parched grass. This is because at the beginning of 1953 we had eagerly awaited the first copy of this publication from the stable of D.C. Thompson & Co. Ltd, which appeared on 7th February. The imminence of this new entertainment had been advertised in The Dandy and The Beano, featured in ‘Her Very Own Seaside’. Maybe Jackie had experienced the same anticipation because, as our Mum had bought it for us, her Dad bought it for her and her sisters. It was Jackie who bought it for Michael.Matthew 6.69 002Matthew 6.69 006Matthew 6.69 007Matthew 6.69 008

Matthew is pretty smart at sorting out anagrams. It seems highly likely that he acquired this skill by assisting me with The Times crossword on the lawn at Amity Grove.Aaron shifting rubbleBack drive with ModusJackie in ModusJacking completing back drive turn

On a day as sunny as that pictured above, Aaron, apart from additional shingling, completed work on the back drive. Unfortunately there wasn’t quite enough room for Jackie to make the three point turn that was planned. Our under gardener therefore took down a remaining few posts and began shifting rubble in order to extend the turning area. This enabled Jackie to make a 333 point manoeuvre. The space will be further adjusted next week.

This evening we dined on fish, chips, baked beans, and pickled onions, followed by rice pudding. I drank Lidl’s Cotes du Rhone 2013, and Jackie abstained.