Thelwell Ponies

On another gloomy morning I photographed the front garden trellis from our bedroom window, showing the pink climbing rose and touches of white solanum against a backcloth of red crab apples.

I had imagined this would be today’s post’s only illustration. Jackie, however, had other ideas. She developed the cold a day before I did and therefore had had one more day on which to become stir crazy and recover a little. She decided to take herself off to Otter Nurseries to replenish the birds’ fat balls, and it seemed churlish of me not to offer to accompany her. I kept my slippers on and did not leave the car.

On the way to the car I photographed this rather early iris.

Rainwater had settled across the lane at Flexford. As we rounded the bend we met a red car reflecting on whether or not to proceed.


The Thelwell ponies 

grazed at the corner of Bull Hill while,

carefully avoiding the waterlogged section,

cattle nested in the woodland at Norleywood.

Ian returned from Emsworth this afternoon and later we all dined on Jackie’s wholesome vegetable soup and bread, on trays, while watching the excellent Green Book starring Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen. This is the true story of a black classical musician being driven around America in the 1960s by a white Italian from the Bronx. The men became life-long friends.

P.S. Our friend John Jones included this in a recent e-mail:

“Anyone who can draw well and be humorous at the same time is exceptionally talented. By chance the Friends of Southampton’s Museums, Archives and Galleries (which Margery helped to set up in 1976) will be having a talk on Norman Thelwell later this month. The speaker is Tim Craven, a former Curator of Southampton Art Gallery. No doubt we will hear a great deal about “small, fat, hairy ponies ridden at full-tilt by alarming young ladies”.”





The Proposal

My cold being at its peak today, I was no more active than is required to finish reading ‘Dark Skies’ by Tiffany Francis.

Jackie is a day ahead of me with the cold and therefore feeling more alive.

Continuing with the book from where I left off yesterday, I will just highlight the author’s enlightening paragraphs on light pollution. Ms Francis clarifies that this is not simply the effect of artificial illuminations aimed into the skies; but also the confusion and changes of routine imposed on nocturnal wildlife by lighting at all levels.

The first three months of Dark Skies journeys were clearly written whilst grappling with emotional loss. As the year went on the skies lightened after a reconciliation occurred, and on the penultimate page a proposal was offered and delightfully accepted.

Here are the last six drawings.

PS. Note the exchange between Linda at shoreacres and me on light pollution.

I shan’t be joining Jackie and Becky for dinner tonight, as a late lunch of scrambled egg on toast has filled me up.

Dark Skies Part One

Although I read every day I don’t normally post a book review until I have finished it.

Today, however, Jackie and I have both been stricken by colds which have kept us away from the bright, sunny day outside. I occupied myself reading 100 pages of

which Tess and Mat gave me for Christmas.

Published this year Tiffany Francis’s journeys into the nighttime landscapes of Britain and Europe is beautifully written and illuminated by her own competent, well composed, illustrations introducing each chapter. The book jacket above, reproducing one of the internal black and white drawings shows an example of the constellations incorporated into each design.

There is a wealth of information about nature and natural phenomena, of history, and of rituals, embellished by pertinent quotations from prose and poetry.

I found it intriguing that this journey into the night took place following the break-up of a romantic relationship, and, so far at least, seems to have been a way of coming to terms with it.

I will say more when I have finished this informative and entertaining work.

Here are the first batch of illustrations.

Fortunately there was plenty of Jackie’s excellent Boxing Day chicken curry and savoury rice in the freezer for us to dine on it this evening with minimal effort. This was followed by Christmas pudding, cream, and custard.

As I Lay Dying

Mat, Tess, and Poppy returned to their home at Upper Dicker late this afternoon.

Afterwards, I finished reading William Faulkner’s ‘As I Lay Dying’. The book was first published in New York in 1930 by Jonathon Cape and Harrison Smith, Inc. My Folio Society Edition of 2011 is enhanced by William Gay’s knowledgeable and insightful introduction, and by the evocative illustrations of Katherine Hardy.

Fifteen different narrators are the device by which the author tells the tale of an eventful burial trip. They alternate with each other in presenting chapters varying in length from one line to a mere handful of pages. We enter the hearts and minds of a stubbornly independent poor rural family as the individuals relate their thoughts and observations in most credible uneducated vernacular. The protagonists, despite a certain amount of stupidity, usually retain their dignity.

Practical, sometimes wry, common sense is expressed by characters outside the bizarre-thinking family whose determined isolation does not work to their advantage. The trip has different meanings to different members of the Bundren Family who are too proud to accept help from anyone. The story is a compelling one of which I will not reveal details.

The front board bears a giant fish

caught by the youngest son.

The mother of the family appears on the frontispiece,

and other full page illustrations appear at intervals.

Despite the title, this was not an unenjoyable book to read at the holiday period.

This evening, Becky, Ian, Jackie, and I dined on the Culinary Queen’s splendid beef in red wine, creamy mashed potatoes, mashed swede, crisp carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli, followed by Christmas pudding and custard, with which I drank El Zumbido Granacha 2018 and Becky and Ian drank Wairauru Cove 2018. These delights were consumed on our knees while watching Rocketman, the marvellous biopic of Elton John played by Taron Egerton

“Just Chillin!”

Today was largely spent dozing in dazes as we all recovered after the last couple of days.

Danni brightened us all up with this e-mailed image of Becky and Ella with the caption “I love how they’re both just doing their own thing in this pic….. just chillin!”. She had taken the photograph during yesterday’s house party.

Later in the morning Margery and Paul visited to return my copy of Trollope’s ‘Doctor Thorne’ and borrow ‘Framley Parsonage’. At this rate our nonagenarian friend will get through my collection of this author’s works before I do.

This evening we dined with our children, their spouses, and Poppy at the Royal Oak. Apart from our granddaughter who chose strawberry ice cream, no-one could manage either starters orf desserts.

My main course was haddock on a bed of couscous and almonds; Jackie and Poppy both chose macaroni cheese; Ian enjoyed liver and mash; Matthew’s meal was steak and ale pie, chips, and vegetables; Tess’s was a juicy steak; and Becky’s ham, egg, and chips. Mat and I drank, soda water; Jackie, Amstell;  Ian, Birra Moretti; Tess, Malbec; and Becky Diet Pepsi.


Quiz Of The Year 2019

Today we hosted a larger family party which has become traditional. Our current household was expanded by Shelly, Ron, Neil, Donna, Jane, Chris, Anthony, Helen, David, and Jenny. Elizabeth, Danni, and Ella looked in for a short while later on.

People gathered and imbibed soon after two;

progressed to one Jackie’s splendid salad lunches here sampled by Neil;

spent enjoyable time in animated conversation as between Donna, Jane, and Ian;

and Matthew and Ron.

I managed to make a few portraits including of Jane,






and Shelly.

The seriously yet hilariously competitive business of Ian’s quiz of the year occupied much of the afternoon until early evening gorging on Jackie’s delicious chicken curry and/or beef in red wine. After feasting we continued with the quiz which ended with a nail-biting finish in which the men beat the women by one point.

The Big Reveal

After opening stocking presents with much hilarity Becky, Ian, Mat, Tess, Poppy, Jackie and I enjoyed a relaxing morning. Some of us watched part of Rocket Man and, after lunch, The Queen’s speech.

We had an enjoyable FaceTime session with Louisa, Errol, Jessica, and Imogen. I seem to have at last got the hang of this.

Lunch consisted of Jackie’s usual excellent spread of cold meats, cheese and salad.

After The Queen we opened our main presents. This led to the great reveal of Jackie’s present obtained through my secret trips with Elizabeth to the workroom of Matthew Chalk of Blackstone Chalk at Dunbridge outside Romsey.

With some trepidation on both our parts, Jackie began to free her gift from its wrappers.

“It’s a cupboard”, she exclaimed.

“What am I going to do with it?”.

“Is this smaller package part of it?”


“Yes. Open it. It’s a shelf”.

“It fits inside”.

I had measured the required structure, drawn a picture, and photographed a rather different, much earlier, model of similar proportions that stands at my side of the bed. Matthew had worked from this with recycled oak, and a brass handle with catch from a collection of antique door furniture left to him by his uncle. The door piece had lain in the River Trent for more than fifty years.

Matthew and Ian carried the heavy structure upstairs and Ian and I removed Jackie’s IKEA model and transferred it to a guest bedroom. Our son-in-law then vacuumed a certain amount of dust from the corner, gathered up an odd couple of dropped earrings, and we placed the new cabinet where it is to stay.

Later this evening we will all sit down to a roast turkey dinner complete with


We will consume various alcoholic drinks..

This Is A White Rose Christmas

Winchester Cathedral blooms today.

The crowded seed feeder sways from side to side in the gloom as aggressive

sparrows squabble over occupied perches.

Regular readers will be aware that I have been on two secret trips with Elizabeth. This afternoon she collected me and took me back to her house to help me transport Jackie’s wrapped Christmas present that she has been keeping for me..

Resting in a garden refuse bag for ease of lifting, it now nestles beside the Christmas tree.

It is now 7.10 p,m. Five minutes ago Becky and Ian from Southbourne and Mat, Tess, and Poppy from twice as far away in Upper Dicker arrived at the same time. Five minutes before that Jackie had gone to Hordle Chinese Take Away for dinner for us all. When she arrives we will eat it with various beverages.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Continued Preparation

A fortnight ago, noticing that our fuel oil was rather low, I ordered a refill and was promised one before today. Overnight the tank was emptied and we had no heating this morning.

Opening with a plea of age and infirmity I rang the supplier early this morning. I then slipped into my trademark firm, quietly seething, tones which I am told can be quite scary. Further promises were made. I said I didn’t want promises. I wanted our fuel oil. Today.

It may, of course, be pure coincidence, but two hours later a tanker drew up outside and unloaded our oil. In fairness, I must acknowledge that all our previous service from WP Group has been exemplary. The next problem was resetting the boiler which had naturally stopped firing. With much trepidation The Maintenance Department set about this task. Soon she was able to cry: “I done it”.

Jackie continued decorating the house while I printed two more cropped copies of

her recent photograph of Nugget which we made into a couple of cards that didn’t need posting.

One was for Mum which we took to her today with a present. She had just been prescribed further antibiotics for a persistent chest infection.

It was past twilight when we left to visit Elizabeth to alert her to Mum’s condition. She was not at home so we took a diversion to Portmore to see if the residents had decorated the tree on the village green. They had, but as no electricity had been employed

we will need to return in daylight.

A murder of crows occupied high branches of other trees, but by the time I was poised with camera all but one straggler had flown off.

Later I phoned Elizabeth who was aware of Mum’s condition.

Back at home Jackie made her own photographs of her decorations.

This evening we dined on cream fish pie, green Brussels sprouts, orange carrots, and white cauliflower with which I finished the red Fleurie and Jacki drank more of the golden Sauvignon Blanc.

Hatchet Pond At Dusk

Today’s Christmas rose is this peach one from the patio bed.

The neighbouring clematis Cirrhosa Freckles festoons the grateful gazebo.

The now solitary pigeon still perches praying for the return of its deceased mate.

Nugget now spends much of his time outside the stable door where he enjoys sole use of the feeder by the house which is too close for other birds to risk.

“Where’s Nugget?” (56)

“Here I am”, he says.

While Jackie worked on the Christmas decorations I finished the cards which we posted later in

a suitably capped pillar box

at Everton Post Office.

By dusk we had arrived at Hatchet Pond

where other photographers focussed on ducks and swans.

Oh, dear. I seem to have pressed publish prematurely. Tonight we will dine on Jackie’s superb Shepherds pie with carrots, cauliflower and runner beans which will no doubt be perfectly cooked. I will drink Patrick Chodot Fleurie and Jackie will drink more of the Sauvignon Blanc.