Gales Again

With intermittent fierce precipitation and continuous gale force winds rampaging against the house and garden I spent the day finishing my reading of “Vanity Fair”, my brain ultimately being too stuffed to begin the work of reviewing the novel, save offering the following sample

pages featuring one of Roland Pym’s black and white vignettes which close most of the chapters in the book, and a glimpse of the author’s prose. Perhaps I will manage to do this justice tomorrow.

This evening we all dined on Chicken Kiev with Jackie’s moist ratatouille and Mac and cheese, with which I drank Torrequercie Sangiovese & Syrah Toscana 2021

Dressing

This morning’s strong winds and driving rain did not deter Martin, but

they did mean I would photograph him from the stable doorway.

Helen and Bill visited bringing Easter presents for Ellie, and leaving with ours for their grandchildren.

Ellie played a game of taking off her dress and putting it on again.

Dillon was there to catch me aiding this process.

Later I read a lot more of “Vanity Fair”.

This evening we all dined on baked gammon, Jackie’s creamy Mac and cheese, and green and runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Malbec.

Wet Reading

I spent another cool day of consistent rain making much more progress on

of which this is a brief taster.

This evening we all enjoyed further helpings of Jackie’s wholesome chicken and vegetable stewp, with which I drank more of the Malbec.

Ecology In Progress

We began this largely overcast day with a trip to Efford Recycling Centre transporting another carload of green garden refuse which will no doubt play its part in the progress of ecology once it has been processed.

This afternoon, after a brief Tesco shop Jackie drove me into the forest. As often on such a gloomy day we drove around for some time without tempting my trigger finger, before encountering

an approaching horse and cart, the driver of which, having spotted my lens through our windscreen, smiled and waved between the last two images in this gallery – unfortunately I missed that shot.

We have learned that there are thousands more giant redwood trees in UK than in California; a number planted more than a century ago in

the Rhinefield Ornamental drive in our New Forest.

To the left of the second picture above lies the trunk of a tree we first noticed a few years back when it first fell. Now we can watch its contribution to the forest regeneration.

I watched a gentleman photographing two children against a recently fallen giant, and later, from a greater distance through trees, spotted one climbing the corpse.

The broken tree in the second and third images in this gallery will join the first example above, making its own contribution. I am not sure at this stage of the difference between the sequoias and the Douglas firs, both of which feature in this drive, but that trunk in the last picture certainly contains red wood.

The sequoia towering above the sun-kissed trees in this picture was planted in the garden of Castle Malwood Lodge, where we lived for our first 18 months in the forest, by Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone during one of his visits in the 1880s..

This evening we all dined on Jackie’s stupendous chicken and vegetable stewp and fresh, crusty, bread with which I finished the Shiraj.

St Leonard’s Road

On a cool, drier, afternoon of intermittent sunshine Jackie and I took a forest drive to the east of the forest.

Ditches along Sowley Lane were filled with clear water reflecting clusters of primroses on the sloping banks. The first pair of the images in this gallery are mine; the second, Jackie’s.

Pheasants squawked raspingly in the adjacent fields, occasionally dicing with death along the road and the verges. Jackie’s is the fourth photograph in this set.

Our familiar equine group were still present here.

Oilseed rape now covers the fields alongside this lane and

St Leonard’s Road, still bearing burgeoning blackthorn bushes,

above which gnarled naked oaks brushed scudding cotton clouds permitting patches of blue to peek through.

Later, I watched the Women’s Six Nations rugby match between Italy and England.

This evening we all dined on spicy, salt and pepper, and tempura prawn preparations; Jackie’s colourful savoury rice; duck spring rolls; and a mix of runner and green beans, and mange touts, with which I drank Reserva Privado Chilean Malbec 2022.

Just A Week Old

Given that we understood that this morning’s chill wind and cold bright sunshine was likely to cede to strong showers for the rest of the day, we set off for a forest drive just after 8 a.m. and turned on the windscreen wipers in a darkened air two hours later as we were driving home.

Groups of ponies gathered around Smuggler’s Road Car Park basking and reflecting in the sunlight,

which brightened the sand pit in the Rockford Common landscape. The stream at Ibsley ford rippled past a recently broken tree on its banks, where blossom bejewelled a shadow-striated wall.

Further along the road donkeys wandered freely along the tarmac.

The sharp wind swivelled a weather vane seen between two houses.

At the bottom of Frogham Hill we encountered our first donkey mother and foal,

somewhat older than its cousins seen at the top, which according to a resident I engaged in conversation, were just a week old..

Someone had categorised potholes at a road junction in Crow,

This afternoon I watched the Women’s Six Nations rugby matches between France and Ireland and between Scotland and Wales.

This evening we all dined on Jackie’s flavoursome savoury rice and spare ribs in hoisin sauce, with which I drank more of the Shiraz.

Ironing And Reading

Today I managed a mammoth ironing session, then made considerable progress with “Vanity Fair”.

Becky and Ian, having returned home to Southbourne after dinner yesterday, were not present for this evening’s meal of oven fish and chips, garden peas, pickled onions and gherkins, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Mighty Murray Shiraz.

The Easymaxx Wall Clock

On the morning of this cooler, dry, generally grey, day Jackie and I dumped another car load of green garden waste into Efford Recycling Centre.

Later, I read more of Vanity Fair, until Jackie returned from shopping at Lidl with a perfect present for our great granddaughter.

The central aisles at this amazing outlet is always a cornucopia of splendid surprises, cheap and of excellent quality, albeit generally short-lived. Ellie is very fond of both clocks and birds, so imagine

Jackie’s delight in finding an Easymaxx Wall clock featuring birds.

Each hour is represented by a named bird in place of a number. Except for the hours of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. this battery operated device, having a gentle tick, plays, at the correct time, the authentic sound of that moment’s avian representative.

Ellie can recognise and name most individuals on her clock. Otherwise she uses the generic “bird”.

Here, while Becky holds the “not a toy”, she indicates and clearly enunciates “robin” and “owl”, recognising the sound of the latter. Being the comedienne that she is she pulls a funny face during her performance.

This evening we all dined on roast pork, crackling, roast potatoes both white and sweet, Yorkshire puddings, carrots, Brussels sprouts, sweet corn and peas, with tasty gravy all cooked to perfection. I finished La P’tite Pierre.

Riding Round Potholes

On a grey but dry morning of intermittent sunshine Jackie and I shopped at Ferndene Farm Shop, then brunched at Lakes View Café before taking a forest drive.

The verge fronting the shop’s chicken fields accommodating a ditch is decorated with daffodils bowed by raindrops.

A few ponies grazed the landscape alongside Holmsley Passage

on which an equestrienne group rode among the potholes pictured yesterday, where

Jackie photographed an elf’s lost hat draped on a post.

Later we saw them, all unscathed, gathering on the moorland.

Still shaggy ponies foraged alongside Wootton Road, where,

the post box still celebrates St Patrick’s Day.

This evening we all dined on meaty Ferndene Pork Sausages; creamy mashed potatoes of white and sweet variety; crunchy carrots; firm cauliflower; and tender broccoli stems with which Jackie, Ian , and Dillon drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of La P’tite Piérre.

Potholes

On another day of unrelenting fine drizzle Jackie and I deposited the next carload of garden refuse into the local dump now termed the Efford Recycling Centre.

Potholes: Roads in England and Wales at ‘breaking point’

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Large pothole in foreground

By Elizabeth Joyce and PA Media

BBC News

Roads in England and Wales are at “breaking point” due to potholes, with repairs at an eight-year high, according to a new report.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) said councils were expected to fix two million potholes in the current financial year.

That is up 43% on the previous year and the highest annual total since 2015-16.

Ministers highlighted their pledge to provide £8.3bn of extra funding over 11 years for road improvements in England.

The AIA’s annual report found that 47% of local road miles were rated as being in a good condition, with 36% adequate and 17% poor.

The survey also found that average highway maintenance budgets increased by 2.3% in the 2023-24 financial year compared with the previous 12 months.

But the impact of rising costs due to inflation meant local authorities “effectively experienced a real-terms cut”.

Car driving past a sign saying Welcome to Pot Hole City
Image caption, A sign on the Daventry to Long Buckby road claims the town should be twinned with the Grand Canyon

Meanwhile, the amount needed to fix the backlog of local road repairs has reached a record £16.3bn, up 16% from £14bn a year ago.

AIA chairman Rick Green said: “Local authorities have a bit more money to spend this year but the impact of rising costs due to inflation means they have actually been able to do less with it.

“Couple this with the effects of the extreme weather we are increasingly facing, and the result is that the rate at which local roads are suffering is accelerating towards breaking point.”

Depending on their size, potholes can cause significant damage to vehicles and pose a danger motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

Although small potholes rarely cause major accidents, if a vehicle hits a lot of them over time, it can lead to damage to the tyres, suspension and steering system.

In Daventry, Northamptonshire, signs have appeared from an apparently fed-up driver welcoming people to “Pot Hole City” and “Pot Holy Island”.

While on the Isle of Man, a woman has planted daffodils in potholes, hoping the “guerrilla gardening” will hammer home the problem.

In October 2023, the government announced it would provide the £8.3bn of extra funding for local road improvements.

This was part of the Network North strategy to use money saved by scrapping the planned extension of HS2 north of Birmingham.

Mr Green said: “There’s still a mountain to climb when it comes to fixing our local roads.

“While it’s great that English local authorities should be getting more money from the government through its Network North funding, it’s clearly not going to be enough to halt the decline.”

AA president Edmund King added: “Our breakdown data shows that 2023 was the worst year for potholes for five years.

“Arguably the road network is a local council’s biggest asset, but not enough planned investment and repairs are being made to make streets safer and smoother for drivers and those on two wheels.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said the £8.3bn spending pledge was evidence the government was “taking decisive action to resurface roads and fix potholes”.

They added: “In addition, we have made £150m available for local authorities right now meaning funding for most authorities has increased by almost a third compared to last year, with a further £150m to follow in the coming financial year.”

The above is a current item from BBC News.

My regular readers will be aware of the number of hazardous holes we now negotiate daily.

Here is a small selection each no more than a short distance from our home – only those where it was possible for Jackie safely to stop and let me out. Where the edges of the tarmac are nibbled away it becomes hazardous for drivers to pass each other in opposing directions when one will need to crash a wheel over a crater of varying depths – our road surface waters have subsided somewhat at the moment but sometimes they have covered the holes making them invisible. Our local does its best to patch roads that really need resurfacing. Gravelled repairs soon wash out onto the tarmac.

A friend of ours recently drove the fifth car that damaged a wheel at the same spot in less than an hour.

While I was focussed firmly on potholes, Jackie photographed fleeting deer disappearing into the woodland flanking Holmsley Passage, and raindrops dripping from thorns.

Becky and our Grandfamily returned from their trip to Scotland yesterday evening and Ian joined us later so we were a full household able to enjoy Jackie’s wholesome chicken and leak pie; roast potatoes; crunchy carrots; firm cauliflower and broccoli, and meaty gravy. The Culinary Queen drank more of the Sauvignon Blanc, Ian drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of La P’tite Pierre.