Today The Sun Came Out To Play

Individual picture titles will be found on the gallery, otherwise I will leave the title and the sun in charge.

This evening we dined on roast chicken thighs; chipolata sausages; crisp roast potatoes, parsnips and Yorkshire pudding; sage and onion stuffing; flavoursome Brussels sprouts and carrots, with tasty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Cotes de Gascogne Merlot Tannat 2019.

Along The Lanes

The third Test Match between India and England finished very early on this, the second, day, giving me the opportunity to stop watching Channel 4 and for Jackie to take me on a forest drive after purchasing primulas and violas from Ferndene Farm Shop.

She parked on an un-waterlogged section of the verges while I walked olong photographing

still naked oak branches against the sky;

swathes of snowdrops in the woodland, wet enough to harbour

reflective pools; as did the

soggy verges.

Fallen trees among the snowdrops bore moss, holly, and ivy leaves.

I returned to the car and we continued to Anna Lane,

on one side of which two New Forest ponies were penned in a field, perhaps for someone to train for riding;

and on the other side sprawled a lengthy pig farm.

Finally, a splendidly sculptural oak stump stands at a bend on Bennet’s Lane.

This evening we dined on well roasted chicken thighs, crisp roast potatoes, parsnips, Yorkshire puddings, and sage and onion stuffing; flavoursome Brussels sprouts and carrots, with which the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Shiraz. Bakewell tart and vanilla ice cream was to follow,

Keeping A Safe Distance

For most of a dull yet warm day I watched the Channel 4 broadcast of the soporific third Test Match between India and England.

Later, I scanned the next three of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’.

‘Grinder’s lot’ are stilt walkers, who were popular entertainers during Dickens’s time. There are a number of modern agencies on the internet, such as https://hire-a-dancer.com/acts/victorian-stilt-walkers/ who provide costumed performers to recreate the experience.

The page was barely broad enough for the ‘Vagabond groups assembled to see the stroller woman dance’

In ‘The dwarf remained upon his back in perfect safety, taunting the dog with hideous faces’, Keeping has ensured that the taut chain restraining the frantic animal keeps it on a different page from its tormentor.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s wholesome cottage pie; bright Brussels sprouts, broccoli and carrots, with tasty gravy. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Shiraz. New Forest rhubarb and ginger, and salted caramel ice creams were our desserts.

Cutting Out The Middle Man?

Early this morning, Jackie photographed the first welcoming dawn we have experienced for a while.

The sunshine lived up to its promise as I wandered around photographing clumps of cheerful snowdrops; bunches of daffodils including tete-a-tetes; bright cyclamen; a variety of abundant hellebores which retained raindrops; and prolific shrubs such as camellias and viburnum. To make room for these images I have begun thinning out some 35,000 photographs in my Mac photo collection.

While I was enjoying myself drafting this post Jackie worked to unblock the shower drain. This afternoon we visited Streets in Brockenhurst to buy cleaning materials, and returned by a slightly circuitous route.

Much of the forest, like this area near Woodfidley, is still waterlogged. Reflective pools bear fallen trees. Still-standing oaks dip mossy toes into clear, still, surface water.

We stopped again at East End to photograph a pony busy trimming a prickly hedge.

Across the road two somewhat battle-scarred bays stood beside East Boldre allotments land. A notice informed visitors that the ponies inside were meant to be there and asked that they should not be fed. Was this, I wondered, a method of cutting out the compost middle man?

This evening we dined on Jackie’s classic cottage pie served with tasty gravy; flavoursome broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and carrots. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Barossa Valley Shiraz 2017.

“So I Could Get A Photograph Like That”

By lunchtime today I had passed six more of Charles Keeping’s characteristic illustrations on my visit to ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’.

‘Quilp’s Wharf’ is an accurate depiction of such Thames-side area of the period.

‘Richard Swiveller’s companion addressed him with great energy and earnestness of manner’ as we can see.

‘Here, then he sat, his ugly features twisted into a complacent grimace. I once encountered a man who adopted exactly the same position.

‘Before Mr Brass had completed his enquiry, Mr Quilp emerged from the same door’. We certainly recognise Mr Keeping’s portrait by now.

‘A shower of buffets rained upon his person’. as so well presented by the artist.

‘The mean houses told of the populous poverty that sheltered there’. Note the residents in the background, and the dog.

Early this afternoon we drove to Puttles Bridge car park where Jackie waited for me to wander along Ober Water.

In fact the following gallery will show why I decided the bridge was as far as I could go. I was incidentally half way across when these ladies approached. I speeded up so I could step aside for them.

They stepped off the path for me, and we exchanged friendly greetings as I turned my back on them so they could pass.

I hadn’t stayed long, so we drove around a bit more. Many of the

Lanes, like Cadnam, where I disembarked and watched Jackie making waves, were also waterlogged. Because she had two other vehicles in her wake she drove on, since our rule is that that is what she will do in the circumstances and either I will catch up or she will come back for me.

In these particular circumstances I was left pondering the fact that I wouldn’t be able to walk on water. when along came a joyful little boy whose wheels would spray nicely. He was followed by his mother with a pillion passenger. I explained my predicament just as the little lad set off. My voice became shriller as I finished my sentence with “so that I could get a picture like that” as I grabbed the shot, rivalling my subject in joy.

This evening we dined on our second sitting of Hordle Chinese Take Away’s excellent dishes with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Dao.

“He’s Escaped Pannage”

On another wet and gloomy morning we drove to Setley Ridge Garden Centre to buy a present for Helen, whose birthday it is today.

Is there anything more dismal than a popular garden centre, normally thriving at weekends, to have hidden this sign beneath an empty display unit? Having done their best to beat Covid-19 and continuous rain the staff have succumbed

to closure, although they are hoping to reopen on 1st March.

Keeping to the safe side of the alarmed rope barrier, I recorded the bedraggled outlet while Jackie bought some replacement provisions in the farm shop. She then dropped me at home and toured other garden centres with a little more success.

This drier, warmer, still gloomy, afternoon we drove to Helen and Bill’s intending to leave presents and a card and run away. Happily, we were spotted and enjoyed a pleasant conversation with them and Rachel from over the front garden wall.

On our return journey, Jackie parked the Modus beside Roger Penny Way in order for me to commune with

sustenance-seeking donkeys and ponies.

At one point we were all distracted by thudding hooves as an equestrienne galloped across the somewhat sodden sward.

The pannage season which starts in the autumn and was this year extended to December is the period when ring-nosed pigs are freed to wallow in the mud in search of acorns and other mast which are poisonous to ponies. This little porker was seen and heard sploshing and snorting with glee, prompting Jackie to pronounce: “He’s escaped pannage”.

This evening we dined on Mr Chan’s excellent Hordle Chinese Take Away with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Dao.

Defying Gravity

A leaden canopy stretched over our skies throughout the albeit warmer day.

During my running days I would often allow the flow of traffic to determine my route. Nowadays it is sometimes the flow of ponies. So it was this afternoon.

There wasn’t much point in staying in the Modus as an equine quartet idled their way along

Mill Lane, so I disembarked and followed them on foot while Jackie turned into a car park.

They soon turned off into a muddy field which they set about cropping. Apart from the quagmire there were plentiful heaps of pony droppings requiring negotiation and the land was attached to the Mill Lawn Sewage Pumping Station. I therefore didn’t follow them too closely, but turned my attention to other ponies.

This shaggy one was close at hand;

others more distant.

There were a number of small groups of walkers about the forest, like these, catching up and joining their dogs who waited by a bridge across

the weedy stream.

bearing reflections across which trees had fallen.

In fact it seems at the moment as if there are more arboreal carcasses littering the forest than still standing trees.

Nevertheless some mossy roots still hold firm on banks of streams,

and these lichen covered branches seem to defy gravity. The third of these photographs was produced by Jackie.

This evening we dined on more of Jackie’s delicious, spicy, pasta arrabbiata with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Torre de Ferro Reserva Dao 2017.

More Contemporary Tributes

This was another day of unrelenting gloom and rain, on which I scanned another batch of colour slides from

Kensal Green Cemetery in May 2008. Well, they all started out as colour slides before I converted some.

The first of these chapels within the grounds is Anglican; the second Non-conformist.

A single sorrowful sculpture sits atop the plinth dedicated to George and Mary Maugham; while William Holland’s Renaissance style sarcophagus is supported by stone griffons.

antiquesworld.co.uk provides this information about the firm began by William Holland furniture makers:

‘Holland and Sons Antique Furniture (1803 – 1942)

Holland and sons were extremely good cabinet makers and they specialised in fine quality furniture. This is why such pieces are so well collected today as if you buy antique furniture by these makers you know you are buying quality. This English furniture making firm was founded in 1803 by William Holland and by the middle of 1800s, Holland and sons was one of the main competitions to the furniture makers Gillows, one of the greatest English furniture producers in History.

Original they were cabinet makers and upholsterers called Taprelland Holland but by 1843 they changed to Holland and Sons with William Holland in control, a relative of the well known Regency architect Henry Holland.

The business soon started to expand quickly and by1851 they employed over 350 cabinet makers and by 1852 took on the prestigious firm of Thomas Dowbiggin of 23 Mount Street, London, who had previously made the state throne for Victoria’s Coronation. Holland and Sons worked successfully not only as furniture makers but also as undertakers and became responsible for the Duke of Wellington’s funeral.

William Holland has the firm expanding at a rapid rate and became so well known for its quality in cabinet making, they became cabinetmakers and upholsters to the Queen. Their first commission was for Osborne House in 1845, supplying furniture in the Queen’s favourite style of the time, the Louis XVI style from France. They continued to supply furniture for Osborne and gained further commissions for Windsor Castle, Balmoral and Marlborough House. Holland and sons also worked for many leading institutions such as the reform Club (we have also supplied the reform club with our antique furniture in the past), the British Museum and the new Houses of Parliament. They were part of many of the important international Exhibitions including London in 1862, Vienna in 1873 and Paris in 1867 and 1872. They gained worldwide fame for their magnificent designs and super quality in cabinetmaking right throughout the Victorian era. Holland and sons stayed as a family run business but sadly closed in 1942 when it fell on hard times due to the ever changing world of the time.’

A small girl is still adorned with flowers and a necklace.

Like other members of ‘The Magnificent Seven’; unlike modern municipal cemeteries, Kensal Green permits more contemporary tributes. Bob Caxton’s descendants have incorporated a stained glass panel into his stone; a sinuous cut metal figure is fixed to the crucifix standing over Maggie Jones; and Charlie O’Sullivan’s polished memorial bears his photograph and the Irish symbols of shamrock and harp.

This afternoon, having finished reading the first four chapters of

I embarked upon the task of scanning Charles Keeping’s superb illustrations as I work my way through Charles Dickens’s novel. In addition to the frontispiece above, entitled ‘Jerry, the manager of these dancing dogs’, a traditional Victorian street entertainment, I now reproduce

‘I found at my elbow a pretty little girl’ whose innate sadness the artist has seen;

and ‘The dwarf glanced keenly at all present’, depicted as evil personified.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy pasta arrabbiata with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Garnacha.

Out In Force Today

Jackie cut my hair this morning.

She grabbed my Covid locks

and trimmed them down to size.

And here was I wishing to turn the clock back.

Contrary to expectations today, albeit several degrees cooler, was, from midday, bright and sunny.

We drove to Otter Nurseries to buy some primroses, including a pot for Elizabeth, which we took to her with a pair of gardening gloves. After a lengthy socially distanced pleasant conversation in her garden we took off for a drive.

A patch of green on Pilley Street generally fills with fresh, reflective, rainwater after the amount of rain we are currently experiencing.

Today a pair of ponies slaked their thirst thereon.

Kewlake Lane is one of those in the forest where local people have lined the verges with large stumps to deter visitors from parking on them. One mossy specimen, reflected in a pool, had been in use for quite some time. We looked down on a fairly orderly sun-streaked landscape.

Along Furzley Lane we encountered more basking ponies and one solitary donkey. The shaggy coated equines were out in force today.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s substantial, flavoursome, chicken and vegetable stewp, with tangy Welsh rarebit, and fresh French bread. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Garnacha.

Wet Roads

Rain beating a clamorous tattoo on the Modus roof; repetitive rapping from a thumping car radio; abrupt slamming of doors; crashing gears of handbrake ratchets; muffled muttering of masked voices; clicking stilettos clopping through puddles – all combined to distract me from the last chapters of ‘Little Dorrit’ as I waited in the car while Jackie shopped in Tesco this morning. Fortunately the rain had stopped when she brought her trolley load for me to unload into the boot.

Heavy rain soon set in again, and I finished reading my Folio Society edition of Charles Dickens’s ‘Little Dorrit’.

For fear of spoiling the story I will not add my own detailed review of this tale which has been printed in many editions and filmed for a BBC series in 2008.to the many that may be found on the internet.

I will simply quote the first paragraph of http://www.brittanica.com’s article:

Little Dorrit,  novel by Charles Dickens, published serially from 1855 to 1857 and in book form in 1857. The novel attacks the injustices of the contemporary English legal system, particularly the institution of debtors’ prison.’ and add that it is a love story with added mystery.

The writer’s flowing prose with sometimes poetic descriptive passages and witty humour mostly captivates, although some of the more boring characters had my interest flagging occasionally.

Christopher Hibbert’s introduction is as helpful as always.

Charles Keeping’s inimitable illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to this novelist’s masterpiece. Regular readers will know that I have posted these as I have worked my way through the book. Although some narrative may be gleaned from these pages I have done by best not to reveal too much.

Here are the last three:

‘A big-headed lumbering personage stood staring at him’ as the brim of his hat had been tossed over the body of text.

In ‘Tattycoram fell on her knees and beat her hands upon the box’ the artist has captured the beating motion.

In ‘Changeless and Barren’, his final illustration, Keeping has managed to symbolise that the work is drawing to a close.

The rain returned before we arrived home and continued pelting for the next few hours. Rather like yesterday, it ceased by late afternoon. Unlike yesterday the sun remained lurking behind the thick cloud cover. We took a drive anyway.

As we approached Keyhaven the sails of a trio of enticing kite-surfers could be seen.

By the time we arrived they were packing up.

Saltgrass Lane runs alongside the tidal flats. At high tide it is often closed.

As we arrived, waves were lapping over the rocks and rapidly covering the tarmac. I was splashed by passing vehicles as I photographed the scene.

Figures were silhouetted on the spit; birds made their own contribution.

We continued along the lane back to Milford on Sea. Had we returned via Keyhaven we would probably have been locked out.

Other lanes, like Undershore, were washed by rainwater from overflowing fields and ditches. Jackie parked on this thoroughfare and I wandered along it for a while.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s stupendous chicken and vegetable stewp and fresh bread with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Garnacha, which involved opening another bottle.