Monochrome Moods

Rusting machinery in fieldRusting machinery

On this bright, cloudy, morning I walked as far as the rusting machinery along Roger’s footpath. To my left, clouds scudded across Christchurch Bay which reflected the bright blue of the sky; to my right, I could glimpse the rape field on the other side of Christchurch Road.Christchurch Bay from Roger's fieldLandscape


In our garden, I struggled to catch one of the crinkled tissue orange poppies frolicking in the cool breeze.

Snail shell

Cracked and scattered snail shells signalled that the thrushes are alive and well. I wondered, however, whose were the droppings left by the half-eaten breakfast on the recently sawn stump.

Shelly dropped in for a visit this afternoon, and was suitably impressed with the results of her sister’s gardening.

This afternoon I scanned and reproduced a troublesome set of colour slides from September 1972. They were portraits of Jackie taken in the kitchen, wearing an outfit she had made herself. Although strong sunlight streamed through the window, the shots were largely underexposed, but I put them into iPhoto in an attempt to bring out elusive detail.

Jackie 9.72 006Jackie 9.72 006 - Version 2

Jackie 9.72 006 - Version 3

Almost by accident, I discovered that black and white cropped versions produced the best results. The computer has a facility for converting images to black and white. I used this, then increased the contrast. The three pictures above illustrate the progression.

Jackie 9.72 008 - Version 3Jackie 9.72 009 - Version 4

Jackie 9.72 010 - Version 5Jackie 9.72 014 - Version 3
Jackie 9.72 015 - Version 3Jackie 9.72 016 - Version 2

I believe monochrome demonstrates the many moods of my marvellous muse to the best advantage.

Seeking an identification for the omelette Jackie produced for tonight’s dinner, I was told: ‘I don’t know. It’s just an omelette with stuff in it’. The ‘stuff’ was onions, peppers, and mushrooms. A garnish of the chef’s garlic mushrooms topped by home grown parsley completed the presentation. And jolly tasty it was too. Chips and baked beans were the accompaniment. I finished the Merlot, and Jackie drank sparkling water.

Suburban Terraced Housing

Anne stayed the night and we got up early for coffee and seeing her off back to London before her return to Athens.

From ‘The Royal Horticultural Society’s Encyclopaedia of Plants and Flowers’, Jackie has established that yesterday’s unknown shrub is a Siberian lonicera tatarica, or Tartarian honeysuckle, regarded as a pernicious weed in North America. I amended the post accordingly.

Another four tons of gravel was tipped onto the back drive this morning. Hopefully that will be enough to complete the layer.


A light blue wash would not have been our choice of cladding for the outside of the house, but it must have been an improvement on the bright pink we understand preceded it, and we are becoming accustomed to it. I have to admit that it sets off the wisteria on the back wall rather well.

Sticky willy shadowDandelion clocks

Later this afternoon I walked a few yards down Downton Lane, where Sticky Willy or Lady’s Bedstraw cast its shadow on on the hedgerows as it began to scale the other plants; and the earliest dandelions are now demonstrating that time is running out for them.

Before that I had scanned a few more slides from November 1972, from my stay at Blackheath. On a walk, Michael posed on a park bench, while Becky was too interested in whatever she was examining to take any notice of the camera.Michael 11.72Becky 11.72 0004

Michael, Matthew & houses11.72Matthew and Becky and backs of houses 11.72Wherever there is a grassy bank it is imperative for children either to roll down it or to climb up it. The one we came across must have been too steep for a roll, but Michael and Matthew ascended it. Matthew and Becky enjoyed peering through the railings of the terraced housing, probably speculating about who lived there.Backs of houses 11.72

Land, even in the suburbs of London, is scarce. If you are rich enough you can buy a large house with plenty of space, but for ordinary people, various generations of developers have built rows and rows of these terraces, each with their own small plot of land. Although London had been growing since the Londinium of the Romans, it was the Victorians who began the serious urban sprawl.  For example, after the advent of the railway, they built the southern part of Wimbledon, where I bought my first house. Each new wave has brought its own architectural style, extending what is now known as Greater London.


Taken from YouTube, The London Evolution Animation charts the growth of the capital from Roman times to 2013. I think it repays taking up the 7 minutes playing time.

This evening Jackie’s superb savoury rice accompanied Lidl’s splendid rack of ribs in barbecue sauce, for our dinner. I imbibed more of the Merlot and Jackie drank sparkling water.

Perhaps I Am Ready For A Bus Pass

When we arrived in Downton last year, the garden was so overgrown that, by the time we began to tidy up some of the shrubbery, many blooms had died off and we didn’t know what we were working on. We did, however, leave enough in the ground to give them chance to display their wares this year.Unidentified shrub

One such is this shrub that we have not been able to identify. Any suggestions would be gratefully appreciated. (Jackie has now discovered that this is a lonicera tatarica – Tartarian honeysuckle – from Siberia)


Our small yellow poppies have now come out to play with their orange companions.


The weaver has completed the erigeron carpet outside the patio doors.

Clematis Montana

The clematis Montana we retrained last year up the tall dead tree trunk, has thrived and begun to bloom.

I have been advised against gardening until my stitches are removed on 5th May. This means that the head gardener has to continue for another week without an under-gardener. One of the many tasks she is working her way through is defining the edges of what we magnanimously call the lawn. This is what the currently untidied section looked like this morning:Lawn edge untidied

and this is the corner she has trimmed:Lawn edge tidied

The task involves defining the edge with a spade, forming a small trench by tossing up some of the stubborn soil, and moving self seeded plants, such as the Japanese anemones, to other areas which need them.

Lock-up 1Lock-up - Version 2Jackie was spending the afternoon with her sisters in Christchurch, and my knee was improved enough for me to think I might manage the half mile walk up Downton Lane. She therefore drove me to the green at Milford on Sea, where I intended to sit for a while and return by bus to the bottom of the lane. On the edge of the green is a lock-up somewhat overgrown with ivy. I photographed the whole scene in colour, in order to show the pink blossom in the background. However, inspired by, I then produced a black and white image that that inspirational photographer in the obvious and hidden series would no doubt have given a suitably cryptic title.

After this, an inspection of the bus timetable revealed that there was one due in two minutes, and thereafter not another for two hours. I took the earlier transport. Never having used this local facility before, I had no freedom pass, and therefore had to pay for the short journey which would normally have taken no time at all. Perhaps I should apply for a free service.


I managed the walk and noticed that the oaks stretching across the lane to meet the opposite pines are now coming into leaf.

This evening we had a surprise visit from our friend Anne who lives in Athens. We all dined at Lal Quilla, and had an enjoyable time catching up with each other. Jackie and I drank Kingfisher. Anne’s choice was the house white wine.

Putting Readers In The Picture

Some of my more recent followers were rather shocked by yesterday’s post. Those who have read my offerings over a longer period will possibly have been prepared by ‘My Branch Of The Family Tree’. It may now be worth explaining that the production of ‘Becky’s Book of Seasons’ was one way of dealing with my grief. The whole piece is a metaphor for life’s ups and downs, and for the value of hope. This morning’s amble round the garden revealed a number of newcomers, such as; Cranesbill geranium

cranesbill geraniums,

Rhododendron 1

the first of the rhododendrons,

Rhododendron 2

with its entourage of white daffodils,

Flowering cherry

and a new flowering cherry.

Some plants are now even more profuse. These include:


flourishing forget-me-nots,

Onion flowers

undulating swathes of white onions that, until disillusioned by Jackie I thought were albino

Spanish bluebells

Spanish bluebells springing from the soil.


Tough little violas, somewhat chewed, have nevertheless survived the winter,


and the transported azalea is now in full bloom.

Stitches in handThis morning Jackie drove me to Hythe hospital for a physiotherapy appointment on my hand. A very careful, affable, and efficient young physiotherapist rejoicing in the name of Sapphire had the task of removing my plaster; examining the stitches; changing my dressing; writing down a couple of exercises for me; and altering the venue for my next appointment to Lymington which is much nearer. The stitches are not due to be removed for another week. Sapphire was pleasantly surprised by what she found, saying that I healed well, which was some consolation. One of the prescribed exercises involves making a fist with the injured hand. After three hours I could do so quite effectively. Bearing in mind that the top joint of the third finger has been incapable of bending ever since I broke it playing rugby about thirty five years ago, I think the next picture demonstrates this. It is to be hoped that the delicate shade of pink chosen for my nail varnish is appreciated.Fist in bandage

Out of consideration for my more squeamish readers, almost foregoing the wordplay of the thumbnail option, I have published a medium image of the stitches. Those who wish to inspect the decorative needlework, may wish to click on the image to enlarge it.

Gorse - Version 2

As we drove across the heathland on Beaulieu Road I felt like an Israelite following Moses across the Red Sea. On either side of the forest road waves of gorse billowed across the landscape sending golden spray crashing onto the division between them.

Stopping in Lymington on the way back, we sampled the set lunch menu at Lal Quilla. This was excellent. For £6.95 each we chose onion bhajis from a range of starters; prawn pasanda for Jackie, and prawn jalfrezi for me, each with pilau rice, from a choice of four main courses; and ice cream. The portions were the same quantity and as well cooked as we are accustomed to in the evenings. Jackie drank diet coke. My beverages were an interesting arrangement. The barrel ran out of Kingfisher whilst the waiter tried to pour me some. He held up a pint glass which was mostly filled with head, and offered me bottled Bangla or Cobra instead. I chose Bangla. Later, he brought me the Kingfisher, now settled to a good half pint. ‘Complimentary’, he said with a smile. This was more than I would have wished to drink, but it would have been churlish to refuse, so I didn’t.

I am not sure that I didn’t drop off to sleep this afternoon before Danni and Andy popped in for a visit, which was very welcome and enjoyable. Such are the geography and timetables of modern life that these casual social activities are generally a thing of the past, which is a shame.

This evening Jackie’s triple decker club sandwiches with sparkling water was more than ample sustenance.

The Foam Rubber Mattress

Back drive

Aaron brought a friend with him this morning, to help him spread the shingle on the back drive. In two hours they neatly laid four tons of material. That they didn’t cover the full extent of the drive was simply because there was not enough gravel. I will need to buy some more.

This afternoon I scanned a batch of colour slides from November 1972. I have not been looking forward to reaching this stage in my archives. This is because two months earlier Jackie and I had, devastatingly, parted. After we each had led rather different lives, it was to be 37 years before we were reunited.

After spending some time with friends Tony and Madeleine, I was given a room in the flat of a work colleague in Blackheath. It was a large room and could accommodate a thick piece of foam rubber measuring 6’6″ x 5’6″ that I had tailor made so that Michael, Matthew, and Becky could share it with me at the weekends. That makeshift mattress was to serve for another 34 years. When I set up home with Jessica I had a wooden bed built around it. Only when I left Lindum House and returned to London, where it was too large to fit into the Hyde Park Square flat, was it replaced.

I was to be even more grateful for the Blackheath room and that mattress before I moved on, because for period of six weeks I suffered my one and only bout of bronchitis and hardly left it for a month.

Matthew on donkey 11.72

Matthew and Becky 11.72Becky 11.72 002Becky 11.72 003

During the time at Blackheath the children and I visited that village where donkey rides and Guinness were sampled.

Greenwich waterfront 11.72 001

Sometimes we went down to the Thames waterfront at Greenwich, which would be unrecognisable today. Smoke still billowed from Battersea Power Station and cranes were still in service.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s scrumptious chilli con carne (recipe) and egg fried rice (recipe). She drank sparkling water and I drank Seashore Isla Negra merlot 2014.

An Ecological Balance

We had some overnight rain; the first for about three weeks. To write that in April, the month identified in UK with spring rain, has been hitherto unimaginable. The French term for our ‘April showers’ is ‘giboulées (showers) de mars (March)’. Could we be going that way?

Refreshing drops were retained by the garden plants such as:

Raindrops on tulips


Raindrops on prunus amanogawa

prunus amanogawa,

Raindrops on pansy


Raindrops on euphorbia


Raindrops on heuchera

and heuchera.

Yesterday’s dove feathers, clearly discarded by a larger, ravenous, avian predator, provided an example of nature’s food chain in action. Further evidence of the process was to be found this morning.

Pond linerHole left by pond liner

Last evening, unaided after all, Jackie had emptied the second small pond, dragging out it’s container and turning it over on the concreted area. We have decided to fill in the hole.

The underside of this small lining bath sheltered a couple of dozen snails. As she overturned their refuge, applying her own philosophy, she invited the thrushes to feast. Snail shell shardsThis morning the concrete was strewn with scattered shards.

Particularly in London, where slug and snail pellets containing poison such as metaldehyde, are widely used to kill the very unpopular molluscs, thrushes that feed on them, so ingesting the toxic substance, are a vanishing species. In the natural course of events snails eat plants; thrushes eat snails and thrive. The ecological balance is upset when snails are tempted by humans into.eating poisoned pellets. They die; thrushes eat snails; poison passes into thrushes; and thrushes die.

Gardeners care more for their birds than they do their snails. And even more for their vulnerable plants. Perhaps they should eschew poison and allow themselves once more to hear the tapping created by thrushes bashing open the shells on stone. Non-toxic snail bait contains iron phosphates. I don’t know how effective they are.

This evening we dined on oven fish.and chips, and pickled onions. I did the cooking, such as it was; the timer failed to sound; the fish and chips were a little crisper than ideal.

Then There Was One

I don’t always remember to take my painkillers. All they do anyway is reduce the acute pain in my knee. It doesn’t take long, however for me to realise my omission. So it was this afternoon when Jackie drove us to New Milton to catch up on some banking. On the way back we stopped off at Redcliffe Nurseries to buy a hoe and various other items. I very soon had to give up and return to the car, leaving the head gardener loose in the store. Afterwards she dropped me off at home to take my pills and continued alone to raid Otter Nurseries.

Garden 1Garden 2JPG

We are in for a spell of dull weather, which began today. It failed to dim the colours of the garden, especially as the red and yellow Japanese maples are now in leaf. Against a post on the far left of the broader picture the splash of orange is our first poppy. Very soon, in different sizes, and of varying hues, the plot will be peppered with them until late in the autumn. These pictures will repay maximum enlargement. Fennel, tulips, daffodils, and pansies are among the plants on display.

On 22nd February, an ailing baby bird we had thought to be a pigeon, perished after a frosty night. We then realised that a pair of young collared doves, seeming to be searching where the chick had succumbed, were probably its parents. They have seldom since been seen apart. FeathersOvernight a predator has struck, leaving the feathers of one of these birds beneath our largest bay tree. Now its mate waits its turn beneath the bird feeder alone. Nature can sometimes be so cruel.

Yesterday’s nicely matured chilli con carne and savoury rice with a side of haloumi, followed by syrup sponge pudding and custard provided our evening sustenance. Jackie drank sparkling water whilst I quaffed a little more of the chianti.

From Germicide To Insecticide

I was able to chuck my sling this morning and have a shower. As it is imperative to keep the dressing dry, this required the ingenuity and expertise of my resident former professional carer of elderly people. Yes, my head gardener, chauffeuse, and cordon bleu cook, also has that string to her bow. Women are, of course, the experts in multi-tasking.

I scratched my head over plastic bags which had holes in them, as I tried to find suitable waterproofing material. Jackie suggested cling film. It wouldn’t stick to the crepe bandage. Refraining from even the slightest of withering looks, my carer explained that ‘It doesn’t need to. I sticks to itself’, as she unrolled a new length and fitted it. No wonder the tangled mass I had been trying to apply had repulsed my efforts to smooth it out.

Hand in cling film

As can be seen from the photograph, I had two fairly free fingers and a thumb. The other two digits are incased in what I assume to be plaster. It’s rigid enough. I wondered whether the term ‘pinkies’ for fingers had come from the colour of the germicide with which my hand and forearm have been pigmented.

There are many tasks, I have discovered over the last few days, which really do require the use of two hands. Grappling with the application of shampoo from a tube will provide one example. Normally, I would use the right hand to squeeze out the solution onto my open left palm, then rub my hands together and massage it into my hair. At least, I imagine that’s what I do. We take these things so much for granted that we don’t even think about them. My left thumb, still aching, and forefinger were not quite up to the job, and required some right-handed assistance. The creamy substance emerged very slowly, and my receiving palm was not exactly horizontal. Applying enough for the hair wash before it slid off my almost vertical mitt, and splatting it onto my head required a nifty manoeuvre.


This afternoon I wandered around the garden inspecting Jackie’s work. I’ve never really studied laurels before, but one app§ears to be flowering. I shall watch it with interest. I was getting on quite well typing with one hand, but now I am attempting to use one and a half, that symbol that appears in the middle of appears crops up all over the place. I suspect the outstretched plaster keeps hitting the key.

We have two mosquito larvae incubating tanks, one at each end of the garden. Well, they are small cisterns, but rather meant for their beautiful wat§e§r (I think I’ll leave in a few of these §s so you can s§ee the size of the problem – numerals 1 and 2 also keep intruding but I’ll spare you those or this will get silly) lilies. Since the nasty bloodsucking adults home in on Jackie she has spent much of the day cleaning out the pools and unclogging the lily roots. This has involved treating the water with insecticide. Before she had finished she received her first bite of the year.

Water lily clumpInsecticide in pool

Clean pool

The first picture shows the first tank’s clump of lilies, the second the treated clean water, and the third the§ completed job.

Pool by Heligan path

She needs a bit of help to extract the lilies she has dragged to the edge of the second container. Perhaps I will be able to oblige tomorrow.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s classic chilli con carne (recipe) and tasty savoury rice (recipe), with which she drank Hoegaarden and I relished Via Cavallo chianti 2013.


In suggesting the Japanese kawazu zakora as a possible identification for yesterday’s pink flowering cherry, arlingwoman said that her first thought had been kwanzan. We do, we then realised, have one of those. It was featured in ‘The Gate Of India’

Still fairly sluggish in the morning, I worked on Jackie’s garden plans.

No. That doesn’t mean I did any gardening. What the head gardener has produced is several lists and a chart. She likes to be able to check items off when she has carried out the essential tasks. For the time being, at least, she will be weeding alone, so this becomes more necessary. She wanted copies on which she can write her ticks.Weeding list

I scanned and printed some.

Garden plan

The chart had been created by tracing Google’s satellite map. It is a bit rough because trees and brambles had obscured some of the detail when the spies in the sky photographed the plot. Jackie needed a larger version from which to make a more detailed drawing. I was able to do this on A3 plain paper that had been included in a pack of A3+ photographic paper that Paul Clarke had given me.

Spanish omelette

The Spanish omelette Jackie cooked for lunch cried out to be photographed. Who was I to ignore its plea.

After each consuming a portion of this, we spent quite some time watering tubs, pots, and newly bedded plants. This routine task would not normally warrant mention, but, unusually for April, it has become a daily necessity. Later, Jackie planted some new shrubs where the log pile had been, and we watered those in.

New Zealand flax

Tulipa saxatilis

Japan is not the only country from which originated many of the plants that came with the house. Among other immigrants are the New Zealand flax, a plant grown for the colourful, speckled, sculptural, quality of its leaves; and the tulipa saxatalis, a very hardy variety of tulip from the mountains of central Asia. I was particularly pleased to get this shot because, like equally tough Shetland ponies, they stand on very short stems, so I had to extend in a downward direction my one good arm and press the shutter whilst unable to see what I had in the screen. Fortunately I am right handed. However, the dodgy knee is on that side, which makes bending it an operation I wasn’t prepared to embark upon. I captured a number of images suffering from the problems of parallax, before securing this one.


Even our ajugas could have been native to Australia, or parts of Europe, although I’m not sure about that.

Jackie was required to cut up my share of the spicy pizza we enjoyed with various salads for our dinner, She was, however, unable to assist me in retrieving a piece of the chocolate meringue that I had allowed to topple over the edge of my dish onto the table. This is because she was helpless with laughter as she watched me chase it around the cloth with a spoon. She drank her customary Hoegaarden, and I drank Doom Bar.

Steadying The Camera

I was in bed soon after eight last night. I am not comfortable sleeping on my back, and never normally start off that way. However, at least until I remove the sling from my arm during the daytime, I am advised to place a pillow on my chest and keep my unslung hand on that. On no account am I to allow it to fall out of bed and, snoozing, leave it dangling. No, you are not be treated to a photograph of a dormant me.

As the morning drew on my headache and sore throat subsided I was surprised to find that the greatest source of pain was my left thumb. This particular digit has been arthritic for years. It has a hard lump on the main joint, but doesn’t hurt much. It hasn’t been possible for me to spread it out wide, but I imagine that was required by the surgeon yesterday, and with me non compus mentis he could pull it about at will. Hitherto, I have been rather ignorant about the process of anaesthesia, but Jackie kindly advises me that  assistance with breathing is required, and to that end tubes are stuffed down your unprotesting gullet. That explains post-operative soreness.

Having learned yesterday that the results of the x-rays to my right knee would have been sent to the GP surgery, the staff of which would probably expect me to phone them, Jackie drove me there. I saw the helpful and efficient Dr Jensen who, incidentally, had arranged for my hand operation. She read out the knee report which ‘told us what we already knew’, that the problem was osteoarthritis. She referred me to an orthopaedics consultant, gave me a further month’s supply of medication, and put me on ‘repeat prescriptions’, which means I can just order them without making an appointment.

Prunus amanogawaFlowering cherry

My brain was rather clearer this evening, and I could steady the camera with my two free-ish fingers and photograph a couple of our flowering cherries. We have quite a lot of different ones, most of which we believe to be Japanese. Of these two we have only identified the white Prunus Amanogawa. Any suggestions as to the name of the pink one wold be appreciated. Rie, if you are reading this, I am counting on you.

It may come as no surprise that I hardly touched last night’s Hordle Chinese Take Away meal. We therefore had bags left over for this evening. There were of course no bags, because this food comes in foil-topped cardboard containers. For those who may not be familiar with the expression, ‘bags’, in this context means ‘a great deal’. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and I finished the bordeaux.