On another overcast afternoon we meandered in the Modus.

On the Beaulieu Abbey lake teal ( see John Knifton’s comment below) paddled among the reed beds;

black headed gulls quietly reflected;

stately swans sailed sedately, sometimes safely splash landing.

One conversed with a little boy in a buggy.

In a field across the road cock pheasants competed with crows for forage.

Cattle claimed the road at East Boldre.

This evening we dined on our second helpings of Hordle Chinese Take Away’s excellent fare.

The Road To Spiritual Redemption

The book I finished reading yesterday once, according to the bookplate it bears, graced the shelves of Geoffrey P. Shakerley. Was this Colonel Sir Geoffrey Peter Shakerley (1906–1982), Chairman of Gloucestershire County Council (1956–1967) ? I wonder. And was he the first owner?

Here is the gold-embossed front board of another beautiful volume in the Bodley Head collection of the works of this author and illustrator.

I rarely read a book twice, but the tell-tale train ticket slipped inside suggests that I first read this one in June 1996, and was not deterred from enjoying it again. First published in 1890, this is the first illustrated edition of 1926.

Undoubtedly rich in satire from M. France, this is nevertheless a treatise on the trials and tribulations on the road to spiritual redemption. St Thais of Egypt, a libertine said to have lived in the 4th century A.D. and converted to early Christianity by a monk wracked with thoughts of lust for her. The writer, within this story, weaves struggles with conscience and much philosophical debate. His effortless prose has been well translated by Robert B. Douglas.

As usual, Papé’s superb draftsmanship is represented by endpapers;

by twelve full page plates;

by introductory section headings;

and by end pieces, from each of which I offer a selection.

Jules Massanet’s eponymous opera was based on Anatole France’s book.

Here is the final scene including the Renée Fleming duet with Thomas Hampson (10.29 minutes)

This evening we dined on Hordle Chinese Take Away’s excellent fare.

“Posing Comes With The Job”

On another overcast morning, Jackie drove me to New Hall Hospital for a physiotherapy appointment with Vanessa. Despite my lack of exercise for the last month, the verdict was still encouraging. A little further work is to be done on the muscles surrounding the replacement knee, but I am apparently doing well.

On our return home, we drove through Hale where

somnolent ponies slumbered around the green, and

a pair of cheery thatchers applied their skills to crowning a cottage roof. They work for Chris Gaussen, and tell me that posing for photographs comes with the job.

My choice of Tesco’s delicious Indian delights for this evening’s dinner was chicken vindaloo; Jackie’s was butter chicken. Both came with pilau rice.


Most of this overcast day was spent reading and relaxing. Late in the afternoon we took a drive to the North of the forest.

Donkeys and ponies shared the woodland forage on the outskirts of Brockenhurst.

Rhinefield Ornamental Drive has many fallen giants.

This is just one of many which, in the interests of ecology, is left to disintegrate over time; to provide nutriment for mosses and other flora; homes for insects; and eventually to return to the soil from whence it germinated many years before. The shallowness of the roots is often the cause of its demise during very wet and windy weather.

A small herd of cattle were penned in the woodland beside Newlands Farm, outside Ibsley.

One appeared to have escaped and joined the ponies roaming in the landscape across the road.

Served with Jackie’s delectable savoury rice we dined on Tesco’s chicken Madras (mine) and chicken korma (Jackie’s). We shared savoury vegetable snacks.

Euro Trim

The trials and tribulations of the two months since my knee surgery have meant that I have been less than assiduous about my recovery exercises. My surgeon had recommended that I use an exercise bike.

Aaron had obtained one for me. I tentatively tried it out today. Since the technical stuff didn’t work on this piece of equipment destined for the dump, I haven’t a clue what I am meant to be reading or adjusting on this static bike rejoicing in the name of Euro Trim. Never mind, after raising the seat as high as possible, I can turn my legs over – very gingerly. Jackie was well enough to act as Assistant Photographer.

The rest of the day was spent on reading and relaxation.

Late this afternoon Jackie managed to take herself to Tesco, where she stocked up on ready cooked curries. We enjoyed the first this evening. The Culinary Queen’s choice was chicken tikka masala; mine was chicken jalfrezi. We shared mushroom rice and a selection of vegetable snacks.

Always A Drop To Drink

Today was milder and wetter. Last autumn, Jackie had planted up a pair of tubs for Mum’s garden. Now the intended recipient occupies a care home, one of these graces the garden of her empty bungalow. The other stands in front of the trellis adorning our garage door.

We took a short trip to the East of the forest, where, at East End the stunning golden mimosa tree is in full bloom;

a pigeon looks down on it from a nearby naked oak.

The corner of St Leonard’s Road and the road to East Boldre is as waterlogged as always once we have experienced considerable rainfall. Water overflows onto the road and vehicles spray as they pass.

At East Boldre a chestnut pony, ankle-deep in another pool, slakes its thirst. Today it can be said that there was water, water, everywhere, and always a drop to drink.

This evening we dined on tangy lemon chicken; creamy mashed potato; crunchy carrots; and tender peas.

Back In The Garden

Stormy weather and a heavy cold have kept me indoors for the last week. Today the wind has dropped to 20 m.p.h. and the sun has shone. I therefore took a walk in the garden. Jackie now has the cold and is currently housebound.

Our winter flowering cherry remains bright against the blue sky above.

The copper beech and the weeping birch still display their skeletal frames;

pruned roses are biding their time to burst forth in bloom.

Golden forsythia glows beside the patio.

Whichever way you look at them, the old cart wheels and the gazebo arches have designs on the gravel path,

visible beyond this end of the Phantom Path.

Camellias still bloom and bud throughout the shrubberies.

Daffodils still abound. Those in the patio are accompanied by tulips, pansies, and violas.

Primulas, bergenias, hellebores, cyclamens, comfrey, alliums, grape hyacinths, and pulmonaria all await discovery in the beds.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s piquant cauliflower cheese served with rashers of bacon, followed by lemon Bakewell tarts.