Stinging Choice

We began a dull, humid, day with a shopping trip to Lidl, followed by a forest drive.

By the time the choppy waves of the open sea splashing over the quayside reached the sheltered harbour at Mudeford they were but ripples upon the dirty grey sandy shore.

Silhouetted pines with gnarly roots separate the two expanses of water.

Canoes are stacked and boats moored on the more sheltered side.

A few visitors with young children lingered on the green, now the older offspring have returned to school.

A patient dog sat waiting quietly for its walk.

A yarn decoration with a seaside theme adorns the oldest red pillar box in the Bournemouth area, which dates from 1856, the first on our mainland, following a trial in Jersey, had been introduced in Carlisle in 1853. The penny post had only begun in 1840.

‘Anthony Trollope, now more famed as a novelist, was, in the 1850s working as a Surveyor’s Clerk for the Post Office. Part of his duties involved him travelling to Europe where it is probable that he saw road-side letter boxes in use in France and Belgium.

He proposed the introduction of such boxes to Britain and a trial on the Channel Islands was approved. Four cast-iron pillar boxes were installed on the island of Jersey and came into use on 23 November 1852. In 1853 the trial was extended to neighbouring Guernsey. None of the first boxes used on Jersey survive. It is possible that one still in use on Guernsey together with another in our collection, originally sited in Guernsey, date from the 1853 extension to the trial.’ (postal

At Avon Canada geese flocked on the river and on the fields, beside which I enjoyed an engaging conversation with a friendly young woman called Ali, who was conducting her own handwritten survey and confirmed my identification of the birds.

In London Lane a field is occupied by a pair of goats I have photographed before. One today was doing its utmost to reach stinging nettles outside the electrified fence. In the process it had chewed to the bare wire, which will be clear from the first picture when enlarged by accessing the gallery with a click. I suppose one sting is like any other to a goat.

Just outside Burley, a group of ponies were enjoying the slightly cooler weather with its lack of flies. One had gathered gorse and bracken headgear.

This evening we dined on pork steaks and chipolata sausages on a bed of leaks; boiled new potatoes; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; tender runner beans and spinach, with which Jackie drank more of the Pinot Grigio and I drank more of the Dao.


  1. I really like the header photo. I’m wondering if it’s only the top wire that’s electrified, not the part below the wooden rail?

    I just love this line: ” . . . they were but ripples upon the dirty grey sandy shore.” It sounds very Prufrockian.

    1. You’re right that it’s only the top wire that’s electrified. Even without a notice, you can spot an electric fence because of the insulators that are used: e.g., that black ‘thingie’ atop the post.

  2. The header photo of the goat definitely was my favorite today. I love that expression!
    Interesting about the letter boxes. Many of the neighborhood letter boxes in this region have been removed, so people have to go to the post office to mail letters.

  3. Your meal sounds delicious! The postboxes are so different, we have nothing like that here. I’ve had a good shock from an electric fence before, it doesn’t feel good at all, Derrick.

  4. I love how horses take turns to lie down and sleep while the other stands and doses, keeping guard over its friend almost with just with half an eye.

    For once I read this as soon as you published and then I became sidetracked and forgot to click Post Comment!

  5. I liked the picture of the resting and standing ponies facing in opposite directions. There is a weary air about it and it seems to have something to say about the current situation that we find ourselves in.

  6. What an amazing skill the creators of those yarn adornments have!
    So interesting to learn about the history of post boxes, too.
    I wonder how long they will last, or whether in decades to come the service, which could be thought of now as quite, will be replaced with something less personal…

          1. I do know, and I remember that you have seen three monarchs. I was equally privileged to see three popes, two dead and one alive (John Paul II) in Rome in 1978.

  7. i’m guessing it was only the top wire that was electrified. I’ll never forget grabbing hold of one of those top wires while falling and trying to regain my balance. I was in my early 20s and got quite a mean zap! The last photo of the white/gray pony grazing near the braken is beautiful.

  8. I enjoyed your photos from your day out, Derrick and Jackie! I am always amazed by what goats can tackle and ingest, including thorny blackberry canes. We have nettle here, and it is good cooked like spinach – no stings after cooking! πŸ™‚

      1. What we have here tastes very strong. I cook it in with sliced sweet potato, onions and chick peas, salt, pepper and a touch of tumeric as sort of a one pot meal.

  9. Such a fantastic album of outdoor pictures! I loved the vibrant colours of the postboxes and their interesting history. Each candid picture of people has a story to tell. Geese look settled and at home. I wonder why people erect electric fences? The goat surely knows the rewards and punishments of poking through the trellis.

  10. I’m sure I recall that the “lady of the house” in The Good Life (British sitcom) used nettles to spin a thread and then weave a suit for her husband…

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