The Birthday Cake Candle

Jackie took an early morning walk around the garden with her camera.

First she produced general frosted garden scenes;

then focussed on various similarly coated leaves;

not forgetting Camellia blooms;

or Nugget in his thermal vest. “Where’s Nugget?” (62)

Late this afternoon we drove to Elizabeth’s house at Pilley where we joined her, Danni, Andy and Ella for the infant’s first birthday celebration. Elizabeth produced an excellent spaghetti Bolognese with fresh salad and garlic bread. This was followed by a most moist carrot birthday cake. Jacki drank Hoegaarden; the rest of us various red wines. Ella abstained.

For the second time today Jackie took all the photographs.

Ella continues to be a great pointer. In the second of these pictures she is clearly aiming for the camera.

She is gaining confidence in furniture walking even though the process gets a bit tight at times;

sometimes she forgets she is meant to hold on.

The one-year old enjoyed opening her cards

and presents;

the wrapping paper bearing various animals was equally attractive to her.

Her birthday cake candle especially delighted both her and her mother,

Danni.

In truth she was past caring when it was time to eat the cake.

In The Rough

This morning we received an e-mail from our good blogging friend Lavinia Ross attaching a photograph of the cedar tree (Calocedrus decurrens) she has planted in remembrance of my son Michael. We are very touched by this.

Jackie nipped out to photograph the evidence of last night’s sub-zero temperature.

We have light frost on various leaves;

and thin ice on the Frond pond – well, cistern actually.

Plants like primulas

and wallflower Sugar Rush Purple Bicolour seem unscathed.

After lunch Jackie turned her lens on the front garden foragers. in the process discovering

a dunnock and

a second robin happily coexisting with Ron. Robins are notoriously territorial, the males fighting to the death to repel invaders. Two companionable examples must therefore be one male and one female. When Ron first came on the scene we did speculate that the bird could in fact be a Ronette. We now have a real identification problem.

Is this Ron or Ronette waiting for the sparrows to finish feeding;

and which is sharing pickings with the pigeon?

Later this afternoon we took a drive into the forest.

The sun was quite low over the Burley Golf Course where one couple were nicely silhouetted;

another apparently caught in the rough;

and ponies,

one of which lethargically turned to observe me, dozing or grazing.

On the opposite side of Burley Road trees, like Narcissus, admired themselves on the surface of a deepening pool.

Before we left home I had remembered that Elizabeth had given me a long walker’s stick for my birthday last year. This is intended to aid balance. I therefore decided to keep it in the car. I was tempted to leave the road at Bisterne Close and walk into the woods. As I set off Jackie reminded me of the stick. Well, at least I had got it into the car without prompting.

It was a great help in traversing the undulating forest floor with its soggy, shoe sucking, areas, yet lacking yesterday’s booby traps.

Moss-covered raised roots were easier to negotiate than yesterday’s bare snaking ones.

Winter’s long shadows stretched over the terrain

much of which was reasonably dry underfoot.

There were, of course, more reflective pools.

One long-limbed mighty oak needed only a wildcat steed to present a passing semblance of the Hindu goddess Durga.

Somehow she has retained her mighty arms whilst another lost one of hers some time ago.

Back in the car and further down the road, even at 3.30 p.m. ice shone on the waterlogged verge.

This evening we dined at The Smugglers Inn at Milford on Sea where Jackie enjoyed spinach and ricotta cannelloni followed by sticky toffee pudding and ice cream. I would have enjoyed my otherwise good sirloin steak, chips, onion rings, and fresh salad more had my steak knife been thrown away. My great and butter pudding and custard dessert was excellent. The service was friendly, speedy, and efficient. Mrs Knight drank Hop House Lager while I drank Doom Bar.

Playing On Ober Water

For Christmas Danni and Andy gave us a self assembly natty little copper and brass soap holder.

Aaron of A,P, Maintenance, with some trepidation because he had never drilled through tiles before, assembled and fixed it for us. As he said, “You never know what you can do until you try”.

We think it was for Christmas 2006 that I gave each of my sons a framed set of photographs of each of the male line from my grandfather John Francis Cecil Knight. The idea was that I would include each of us at about the age Grandpa Knight was in a photograph that Elizabeth had pointed out looked very like my youngest son, Sam.

Here, accompanied by Oliver and Alice, Michael is opening the present.

On this one, although he was much younger than the rest of us, I included Oliver. I am especially pleased at this because he now has it and treasures it. From left to right we have my grandfather, my Dad, me, Michael, and Oliver. I called it ‘The Knights’ Tail’. Heidi e-mailed these two images today.

Jackie watched Nugget quietly tolerating the long-tailed tits snaffling his food.

“Where’s Nugget?” (61)

The weather was bright and cold, with clear blue skies and some ice on the overnight precipitation. This afternoon Jackie drove me out to

Ober Water.

A week or so ago I had walked the Ober Water trail’s one mile section and back. This was a level gravelled path out of sight of the actual water. I had the idea that there may be one on the other side which would allow me to follow the river. I therefore crossed Puttle’s Bridge to discover that there was no such path, but that others had clearly

wandered along the banks.

I contemplated the soggy terrain, turned around and looked back from the bridge towards the other side. My resolve to return to the Ober Water trail and do the sensible thing didn’t last long. I was soon clambering over

tree roots, their soli severely eroded, surrounded by pools of indeterminate depths;

and swollen, reflective, streams etched across my intended route.

The river of course presented many of its own reflections.

After forty minutes of this I hadn’t progressed very far and thought it best to retrace my steps.

At the outset I had photographed a rope swing

which later proved irresistible to a brother and sister who took it in turns to swing over the river.

This provided me with an opportunity to ask their willing father to haul me out of a particularly deep gouge in the bank of a recently established tributary.

Delighted dogs dashed around all over the place. Some kept their owners reasonably close;

others crouched ready to pounce

for a play fight,

clearly beneath a serious-minded spaniel.

One exuberant creature made the water its element.

This evening we dined on the other half of Jackie’s prime beef and mushroom pie; roast potatoes and butternut squash; with firm Brussels sprouts, carrots, and broccoli, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Fronton 2017.

 

A Quarrel Of Sparrows

Stealth bombers dominate our front garden feeders.

Silently they crowd the seed provider, with a

considerable amount of spillage

cleared up by robin Ron for whom this particular container was provided,

and larger birds like blackbirds

and woodpigeons.

The voracious field sparrows dart onto any vacant perch. They engage in fearsome face-offs. Spreading or violently flapping their wings and viciously pecking they dive-bomb their rivals to take their places at the trough.

It is hardly surprising that a collective noun for sparrows is a quarrel.

This afternoon Jackie went into the garden in search of Nugget, who she photographed as he cocked his head awry.

“Where’s Nugget?” (60)

She thinks the solitary crow on our rooftop is Russell, who latched onto her in its infancy in June 2018.

She also photographed

an iris,

the Weeping Birch,

a vinca,

an owl on the stumpery,

an osteospermum,

campanula,

heuchera leaves,

and emerging snowdrops.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent beef and mushroom pie; creamy potato and swede mash; firm carrots and Brussels sprouts; tender cabbage; and thick, tasty, gravy. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Garnacha Syrah.

 

Surfing For Fish

Jackie has a row of shells lined up on a low stone wall. This morning as she stepped into the garden to photograph

a pot of pansies underneath which are planted tulips she noticed that these shells have been tossed all over the place. This set her thinking that either the wind had wreaked havoc or that Eric the Pheasant who last year specialised in this wanton distribution had returned.

Sure enough, Eric was back.

Today’s weather was much brighter, albeit somewhat cooler. We drove to The Beach Hut Café at Friars Cliff for a hearty brunch.

After our meal we each produced a set of photographs. As a gentleman I always allow the lady to go first, so there follows Jackie’s contribution:

She first pictured the bay, creating a panoramic view with the Isle of Wight in the distance.

Beach scenes with huts came next.

Unbeknown to me she lurked around the corner of the promenade and caught me snapping.

I was intrigued by the waves and spray breaking on the rocks and sliding along sand and shingle.

A lone fisherman, the sun glinting on his spectacles, kept a vigil throughout and after our meal. I am not aware that he caught anything,

which is more than can be said for a small surfing gull family.

Dogs are not permitted on the beach between May and October, but, at this time of the year their owners make hay. Some time after I took this set three loose alsatian-type dogs raced around the beach huts. They belonged to the gentleman in the red jacket – not me. At the end of a row of huts ascends a steepish slope still necessitating me holding the rail as I begin the climb back up to the car park. I was not best pleased when one of these creatures bounded round the bend and narrowly missed colliding with me. Unfortunately the owner was out of sight and I hadn’t the energy to seek him out.

Before I began that ascent I witnessed the progression of a stone-throwing apprenticeship. A little boy with a man I assumed to be his grandfather picked up quite a large missile which he

handed over to his companion who,

watched by the lad, chucked it into the waves.

The junior then gathered up smaller stones and, with unerring accuracy tossed them directly ahead into the spray.

He was well into his task as I departed.

This evening we dined on pepperoni pizza with plentiful fresh salad.

Backing Up

Knowing that we were to expect further stormy weather today, Jackie helpfully took her camera into the garden at dusk yesterday and photographed

primulas,

cyclamens,

bergenia,

hellebores,

camellias,

clematis cirrhosa Freckles,

a pelargonium,

a mahonia with accompanying New Zealand flax,

snowdrops,

and Daphne odorata marginata all in bloom.

The Generous Gardener rose set to climb the recently heavily chopped cypress has taken well.

While she was at it the Assistant Photographer also added a fern owl for Pauline’s benefit.

Just about avoiding the rain that was to follow we drove early into the forest.

On Barrows Lane a row of daffodils were already in flower.

We were, yer honour, proceeding at a gentle speed along the narrow, winding Lower Mead End Road when

distant headlights reflecting on the wet tarmac alerted us to the approach of an oncoming vehicle,

As always in such a situation someone has to back up. Jackie is of the opinion that this is very rarely a BMW driver. So it proved today. My Chauffeuse did the gentlewomanly (You are chauvinist, WP – I did not type gentlemanly) thing and reversed until there was some degree of passing space.

Polite waves were exchanged as the gentleman in the other vehicle sailed by and we continued driving through the pools ahead.

The woodland and Boundary obscured grazing ponies,

yet cattle were quite visible among the moorland gorse.

You could be excused for imagining that this picture of Sway Tower against streaky pastel skies was produced either at sunset or sunrise. In fact it was 11 a.m.

After lunch Jackie brought back my first Easter egg from Tesco’s where these delicacies had been on sale for at least a week. Like the pictures that began this post her intention had been that I might like to “put it on the blog”.

This evening we dined on succulent roast beef, crisp Yorkshire pudding, creamy potato and swede mash, and firm, tasty, Brussels sprouts and carrots with which I drank more of the Garnacha Syrah and Jackie drank Maury 2013.

 

“I’m Going To Get My Mum”

This morning Jackie ironed my last four shirts which is a double result: firstly I didn’t have to do it and secondly she does it better.

The wind eased through the morning and the afternoon was bright and sunny for us to take a drive into the forest.

Much water lay on the roads and their verges. The terrain on either side of Holmsley Road was waterlogged,

but did not deter dog walkers.

Bubbling pools,

where a month or so back the land was dry, now reflected trees and sky.

As we crossed the Burley Road into an unnamed lane approaching Bisterne Close I noticed a group of ponies foraging among fallen trees that were in various stages of decay. Jackie parked on the verge and I rustled my way down slopes

of fallen leaves,

past reflecting pools of various expanses,

and negotiating stumps and fallen trees,

to mingle with the ponies

who bore the dregsof the recent deluge.

Although one of last year’s late foals this dishevelled creature, larger than any adult Shetland,

after enjoying a scratch against a branch of convenient height, sounded heavy thuds as, with a shrill whinny roughly translated as “I’m going to get my Mum”, it sped past me

in full flight

and, sure enough, returned with its mother

who gave me the eye made all the more alarming by the bright white centre of the black marking encircling its left orb.

Despite appearances she allowed me to continue as she got on with the serious business of eating.

I bid this family farewell and we made our way towards

Burley where the verges were full of reflecting water,

and to Bisterne Close where ponies shared the road with dog walkers,

and the woodland with each other.

Lime green catkins now swing in the trees, contrasting with autumn’s red berries.

On our way home we diverted to Wootton Bridge where the fast flowing stream has burst its banks

and waterlogged the surrounding sward.

Nearby rocks have become rippling watercourses.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s piri-piri mango and lime chicken served with her splendidly savoury rice topped with omelette and with green beans on the side. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank El Zimbido Garnacha Syrah 2018 given to me for Christmas by Ian.