Getting Cold Feet

Fierce gales that gusted throughout the night had somewhat lessened this morning, although they set up again with increased fervour, beating a tattoo on the unflinching Modus, as we set off for an afternoon forest drive.

An unusually long tailback on Christchurch Road gave us the opportunity to turn round and head for home, but we persevered. Eventually we saw that the cause had been a stationary large lorry with flashing lights which reversed into a side road in which was an emergency police car and another vehicle blocking the road. We have no idea what had happened, But of course drove past.

In a field alongside Sowley Lane entered by muddy ruts bearing puddles, on the surfaces of which swam gradually increasing raindrop ringlets,

a soggy group of horses silently tolerated their damp surroundings.

Further along the road a small herd of cattle cropped the verges and chomped branches stripped from trees with their lichen and ivy coated trunks surrounded by dripping ferns alongside

a glistening five-barred gate.

From May to October I customarily adopt footwear of sandals without socks. Throughout this July I have been getting cold feet. This is predicted to continue until September.

Becky left before tonight’s dinner to return home to Southbourne. She had made some flavoursome chicken stock with which Jackie cooked this evening’s sticky savoury rice to accompany meaty barbecue spare ribs and tender baby sweetcorn. The Culinary Queen drank Vineyard’s Juicy Spanish Rosé, while I finished the Douro.

Repurposed Bedstead

Quivering leaves of the Amanogawa cherry tree outside my window alerted me to the light rain that freshened my morning garden task as it dripped from the trees above the front garden, in which I completed the raking of green refuse covering the mounds of gravel on the path, bagging all up in two used compost bags.

All that remained were the finishing touches of levelling the mounds and shaving the edges, rather like a barber trimming the neck and eyebrows. I completed this after lunch. When the still fierce winds lessen I might get around to removing the few remaining leaves which just wouldn’t keep still. Alternatively I might simply allow them to dance on.

Meanwhile Jackie reminded herself of the first bedstead repurposed on the Weeping Birch Bed when she erected one to hold back a red carpet rose determined to cover the recently cleared footpath.

This evening we all dined on Jackie’s tasty fusilli pasta bake containing boiled eggs, bacon, and chicken; and succulent baked gammon, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Douro.

Appreciative Lilies

Once again I didn’t manage to finish opening up the front garden path.

The bed alongside the house was choked with fruiting brambles, the stems of which rooted in the gravel and leapfrogged to the opposite side. I cut off the stems as far as I could reach, then prised up the roots with this heavy duty hoe.

After about an hour and a half I reached the end of my capacity with this stubborn root, and

didn’t have the energy to rake up the remaining loose weeds and branches. I had already chopped and bagged up two used compost bags, largely with brambles and fuchsia Delta’s Sarah which sadly needed trimming back from overhanging the path.

At least these lilies appreciated the extra space.

Later, I returned to ‘The Trial of The Templars’; and even later succeeded in removing that last bramble root and several more of the less stubborn weeds ready for raking from the gravel tomorrow

This evening we all dined on Mr Pink’s cod, chips, curry sauce, and mushy peas and Garner’s Pickled Onions with which Jackie and I both drank Zesty

“Best Laid Plans….”

I had “best laid (gardening) plans” today.

First, in the interests of passing walkers in our unlit nights, I would prune the overhanging trees along the front pavement, so they are not forced to step into the road;

Secondly, I would weed the front garden gravel path which I had created about 8 years ago, and tidy the borders.

Having spent an hour on the pavement lopping, chopping, and bagging up the offending limbs whilst ensuring that no part of me ran the risk of being hit by any part of the steady stream of vehicles of all shapes and sizes, often exceeding the 40 m.p.h. speed limit thundering and clanking close to the kerb, I staggered down the Brick Path to add two more bags to the stack for the next dump run, sat with Jackie in the Rose Garden, where Becky bought us each a drink, for long enough to decide that the next task had “gang agley” and would wait until tomorrow.

Following sound advice from some of my blogging friends I have broken my “no more books” rule and allowed Jackie to complete my Avignon quintet with an Amazon order. In the meantime, Durrell’s Inquisition theme has encouraged me to return to Malcolm Barber’s history of The Trial of the Templars, which first read 20 years ago – long enough ago to have forgotten most of it.

For tonight’s dinner, Becky, in her own words, produced dry roast chickun, stodgy potatow salad, lack lustre carretts, and limp brockally, with which Jackie drank Zesty and I drank Entire Quintas Reserva Douro 2021.

Dull And Humid

Last night’s steady rain had fortunately ceased by the time Jackie and I transported another load of garden refuse at 11 a.m. this morning, although the air remained very breezy and cool, and increasingly dull and humid as the day wore on and we carried out a big shop at Tesco’s.

After this I finished reading Lawrence Durrell’s ‘Sebastian or Ruling Passions’, and published

This evening we all dined on meaty Ferndene Farm Shop pork sausages, creamy mashed potatoes, fried onions, corn on the cob and tender broccoli stems, with which Jackie drank Zesty and I finished the Vacqueyras.


This fourth novel of Lawrence Durrell’s Avignon quintet is another celebration of his divine prose linking the patchwork of episodes containing his themes of love triangles; gnosticism; the Inquisition; sexuality; psychiatric conditions; suicide; murder; and rivalry, all involving the narrator and his invented characters as they assist the writer in bringing his work towards completion.

Durrell’s descriptive language, his insight into humanity, and the pace of his narrative carry the reader along at a sometimes exciting rate, although it is helpful to understand the metafiction genre that has become clear to me in working my way through the series.

I do not possess the next book in the series, and, although I determined about 15 years ago not to acquire any more books, I am tempted to break that resolution.

David Gentleman has once again provided the book jacket on the reverse of which appears an accurate blurb.

Agister Aware

The predicted heavy rain arrived on time at 4 p.m. this afternoon while Jackie and I, having purchased provisions at Milford on Sea Co-op and Ferndene Farm Shop, were undertaking a brief forest drive.

Until then, the day dawned bright enough for Dillon and Jackie to transport 17 bags of garden refuse to the Efford Recycling Centre, leaving more for another two trips which have to be booked on line. I will accompany Jackie on this trip tomorrow.

As the light failed Jackie finished weeding the Kitchen Path,

and the scaffolding from our west gable end was taken down.

‘In the New Forest, an agister (/ˈadʒɪstə/) is a local official whose role is to assist the verderers with their duty to manage the free-roaming animals that the New Forest commoners are allowed to release onto the forest.[1] Several thousand semi-wild ponies run free, along with several thousand cattle and lesser numbers of donkeys, sheep and (in autumn) pigs.[2]These are owned by the commoners who pay an annual grazing fee known as the ‘marking fee’.[1] There are currently five New Forest agisters employed by the Court of Verderers, each with responsibility for a specific forest area.[1]

The post of agister is medieval in origin, the name deriving from the word ‘agist’ meaning ‘to take in to graze for payment’.[1]Originally agisters were known as ‘marksmen’, from their role in collecting the marking fees – a role which they still have today.[1]

Agisters spend much of their time out on the forest, often on horseback, checking the condition of the land and of the commoners’ ponies and other stock.[1] They are on call 24 hours a day to deal with problems such as stuck, straying or injured animals.[1] They also watch out for breaches of the verderers’ bylaws and for the presence on the forest of unauthorised animals.[1][3]

Each year between mid August and early November the agisters organise regular ‘pony drifts’, in which the commoners get together to gather in their ponies for an annual welfare check. Rounded-up ponies are recorded and checked by the agisters against the marking fees paid by their owners.[4] Any pony that the owner wishes to sell or to take in for the winter can be removed from the forest at this point.[4] The remaining ponies have their tails clipped in a distinctive manner to identify those normally living in a particular agister’s area, and they are turned back out for another twelve months.[4]‘ (

Much of this information appears on previous posts of mine, But this is the simplest source of the whole picture.

I don’t know what happened to this pony lying with distended belly at the side of Forest Road, but someone has obviously reported its demise to the local agister who has posted a notice indicating his awareness of the need for the body’s removal.

As is her wont, Jackie created two cottage pies yesterday, so we all enjoyed the second one for dinner tonight, together with a fresh selection of vegetables, with which she finished the Grenache and I drank more of the Vacqueyras.

New Arch And Continuing Clearance

Martin began the day by assembling and installing the replacement wooden arch;

then moved on to complete his clearance of the Dragon Bed and many other areas of the garden.

I also photographed the Weeping Birch Bed which will soon need further clearance.

Jackie, meanwhile, weeded the Brick Path section outside the Stable Door.

Ian returned home for work before dinner this evening which consisted of The Culinary Queen’s wholesome cottage pie topped with fried potatoes; firm broccoli; crisp carrots; and tender cabbage, with which she drank Pique-Nique Grenach 2022 left by our son-in-law and I drank Vacqueyras 2021 – a welcome present from Shelly and Ron.

A Case Of Trains

At lunchtime today Jackie and I met Shelly, Ron, Helen and Bill at Holmsley Station Tea Rooms for lunch. The event was brought about by the need to check on whether they have used the case of model trains that had belonged to the sisters’ father, Don Rivett, because Helen, who had given her details had not heard from the establishment.

In fact the trains were in pride of place on the waiting room mantelpiece.

My choice of food was excellent whitebait with tartar sauce followed by ham, egg, and chips with a glass of Chilean Merlot. Jackie’s was tasty Macaroni cheese with Diet Coke.

Afterwards, on another dull, dreary, day Jackie and I took a short forest drive where

I wandered among a few ponies in the woodland along Bisterne Close

where a Rowan tree carried early berries.

Further into the forest a foal struggled to find stable purchase for a scratch against a wobbly fallen branch;

eventually it gave up and transferred its attention to a sturdier limb.

Afterwards I published

We had no further need for nourishment this evening.


This third novel of Lawrence Durrell’s Avignon quincunx contains the very best of his splendidly lucid prose, and more. Set during the period of the Second World War, the author demonstrates an ability to sustain lengthy periods of activity with all his adverbial and adjectival prowess, carrying us along apace with him. The narrative flows enough throughout the central sequences for us to forget that this is metafiction. His themes include an understanding of motives and conflicts about wartime activities; of the herd instincts and imposed fear that cause people to follow without question; of the position of women in society which can take many years to shift, despite hard fought changes in legislation; of a deep understanding of the nature of sexuality in love, in lust, and in the psyche.

The underlying sexual thread running through the work reaches a crescendo midway, as does the aftermath of war in an occupied city in the closing chapters, perhaps the most powerful in a powerful book.

David Gentleman has once more provided the book jacket.