Le Déjeuner Sur L’herbe

I spent the whole morning foiling a suspected banking scam. This involved several phone calls, listening to long stretches of Muzak, and struggling with a Scots accent on a bad line.

Don’t ask. I couldn’t bear to go through it again.

This afternoon I reeled up the Gazebo Path to join Jackie who had spent the day so far eliminating fungus from the heuchera border in the Rose Garden.

The first picture shows the infested stems which I helped to bag up – the trug beside these contains the tiny rescued root stumps; the second shows Jackie applying liquid fungicide to the soil from which the plants have been removed; the third shows the rest of the border which will need to be similarly treated; and the last the planted stubs which should regenerate quite quickly.

It was truly the best part of a day for repelling pests.

While I sat by my desk with my mobile phone attached to my ear I had plenty of time to gaze at clematis Mrs N. Thompson through the window. The first of these pictures focusses on her. The other two are of what she looks like outside.

Later in the afternoon, when I was feeling less shell-shocked, we visited Otter Nurseries for some more fungicide and continued on a drive into the forest.

Just outside Brockenhurst a pair of foals trotted across the road and, ignoring another youngster, scampered across the heath. Where there are ponies you will usually find attendant crows.

We stopped at Puttles Bridge where Jackie parked the car and I wandered about around Ober Water with the camera.

As will be seen by the peaty water and the shallow bed this stream, albeit a bit fuller now, must have been quite dry during our absence. Reflections of trees and skies merged with the colours of the pebbles beneath. Dog roses abounded. The conversation with the very friendly young couple really cheered me up.

The last three pictures feature a group who put us in mind of Edouard Manet’s “Déjeurner sur l’herbe, except that all the women were appropriately clad and there were no fully dressed gentlemen in the scene.

While waiting in the car park Jackie watched the light moving to where she wanted it for this picture.

This evening we dined on meaty, spicy, pizza with Jackie’s mixed pasta cheese, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Malbec.

Ali Baba

When I walked down the garden to open the back gate for Aaron this morning the early sun peeped over the eastern fence, its light licking

the jeweling of last night’s rain still glittering on the plants. The bees were working away. Wedding Day festooning the Agriframes Arch approved of the Penny Lane bouquet adorning another. As usual galleries can be accessed by clicking on any image each of which may be viewed full size with a click in its box at bottom right; further enlargement will then also be possible.

Readers may remember that the territorial arrangement arrived at last year between Nugget and his rival, Muggle, was that the mutual boundary was the first hawthorn tree along the back drive. I therefore think that it was

Muggle I met along the back drive, providing me with “Where’s Muggle?” (1) and (2).

Among his other tasks this morning Aaron added more paving to his path linking Dead End to the patio.

One of the presents we had given Danni for her birthday was a large Ali Baba planter. These were being sold at Redcliffe Garden Centre. They were half price with a further reduction if you bought two. This had the Head Gardener thinking that she also needed one. We bought two.

This afternoon she potted up hers. Rocks and bricks covered in fleece provided the necessary drainage; the contents of two grow bags came next, and were followed by those of two and a half 50 litre compost bags. Then came the main permanent feature of the gaura with its small delicate pink and white blooms surrounded by pelargoniums, petunias, and other trailing plants which will extend to where the Head Gardener is indicating. Finally watering was required. The final picture gives the view of the pot enjoyed by anyone sitting on the white seat cleared yesterday in the Weeping Birch Bed.

Later, taking a bundle of black refuse bags and a letter delivered to our house, we visited Elizabeth and enjoyed a pleasant hour or so of socially distanced conversation in her garden.

On Bull Hill, donkeys and ponies favoured differing fodder. The smaller animals, of course, prefer prickly provender.

Our dining fare this evening consisted of piquant two varieties of pasta cheese; crispy bacon; roast potatoes, and mixed vegetables, with which the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Malbec.

Night And Day

Last night before bed Jackie wandered around the garden with her camera

and produced this set of images.

This morning we worked together in the Rose Garden.

Jackie swept, weeded, and refurbished the pots that had contained tulips earlier in the year. In the first of these pictures she points out to Nugget some tasty morsels found under a stone; in the second she examines a spent bulb in order to ascertain whether there is enough life in it to replant it for next year.

As indicated above, our little robin was very much in attendance, gathering food for his current brood.

I carried out significant dead-heading, and

took photographs from within, and on the approach to, the Rose Garden which can be seen from each of the last few garden views. As usual each of the galleries can be accessed by clicking on any image which can be viewed full size by clicking the box beneath the picture, and enlarged further if required.

The same applies to this picture of the entrance which is also “Where’s Nugget?” (88).

Bees were also very much in evidence, plundering roses such as Open Arms, and clustering on the same poppies as yesterday. I wondered how on earth those with heavily laden thighs would make it back to base.

This evening we dined on cheese centred fish cakes; piquant mixed pasta cheese (still no macaroni) ; and peas, with which Jackie finished the Verdejo and I sampled another bottle of the Malbec.

Buzzing On Opium

We received a generous amount of rain overnight and light drizzle during the morning of a generally overcast day.

Jackie continued her work on clearing beds while

I carried clippings and other refuse to the compost bins before a lengthy training session for what Andrew Petcher has termed the Dead-heading Olympics.

Nugget visited me briefly, but otherwise preferred the company of the Head Gardener and her filled trug from which he plucked provender to provide for his latest brood of offspring. The poor little chap was looking very sodden as he ignored the rain for the greater good.

In this image you can find “Where’s Nugget?” (87)

For one brief period before lunch clematis Madame Julia Correvon smiled in the sunshine while sparkling raindrops caused roses, hemerocallises and others to gladly glisten;

a veritable hive of bees clambered over each other buzzing on opium.

This evening we dined on roast chicken; crisp roast potatoes; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; and tender spring greens with green beans, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Malbec.

Skill In His Genes

Today the weather was dull throughout without even the relief of the forecast drizzle. Jackie was trapped this morning in a dreaded two hour Tesco shop. While waiting for her in the car I had plenty of time to finish reading my book.

As so often years ago, when a book review had prompted me to buy a copy, I would leave the newspaper article slipped inside my purchase.

Normally I would write the date and source on the cutting. On this occasion I didn’t. I was therefore pleased to see

this snippet about Andy Irvine on the reverse. A little research established that the piece would have been published some time in March 1981.

I don’t normally give away much of the story of a volume I am featuring.

Philippa Toomey’s review, being itself an essential part of my tale for today, has, on this occasion, done it for me. Any review ending with ‘a very strange book indeed’ linked with the name Wyeth was bound to send me off to the Baker Street Bookshop managed by my friend Graham Charnock to order a copy, the delivery note of which, dated May 1981, fits with my research.

My copy of The Helga Pictures by Andrew Wyeth was the reason the name appealed. I now know that the Wyeths are dynasty of leading American illustrators dating back to N. C. Wyeth from the golden age of the early 20th Century.

Andrew was the husband of Betsy James and the father of Jamie.

This book was published simultaneously in America and Canada by Farrar Straus Giroux in 1979. To Pilippa Toomey’s review I would add that the narrative of Mrs Wyeth flows, surging with life, as do the exquisite drawings of her son, whose skill is in his genes.

In this selection of pages from the work I have been constrained by the format and the breadth of the artist’s vision. I could not include everything. As usual, a click on any image will access the gallery, each member of which can be viewed full size by clicking the box beneath the right hand corner. Further enlargement is also possible.

This evening we dined on roasted chicken thighs; crisp Yorkshire puddings; creamy mashed potato; crunchy carrots and broccoli; and tender green beans with tasty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, which, of course, was the reason for the Tesco shop; and I drank Western Cape Malbec 2019.

Caramel Creams

Jackie spent much of the day completing her work on the Weeping Birch Bed where she has also repainted the Heligan Path sign. A couple of days ago she could not reach her seat, let alone sit on it.

Later this afternoon we took a drive into the forest.

We followed a cyclist and her trailing, rather wobbly, skateboarding companion much of the length of Everton Road.

In fields alongside Braggers Lane we noticed a herd of mostly caramel cream coloured cattle accompanied by calves

trekking with some intent down from their hillside and up another slope. So dry was the terrain that dust clouds were kicked up.

I followed them to find them jostling for position around a water trough. The poor calf just had to wait its turn.

It must have been something energising in the water that caused the cows to engage in the normal springtime humping practice on the way back up the hill. One young bull tagged along with the two active cows when they reached their field, but showed no interest in participating.

This evening we dined on succulent bangers, creamy mash, crunchy carrots, tender green beans and spring greens with which Jackie drank Becks and I drank more of the Douro.

Absolutely Fabulous Cricket

The sun was permitted the occasional appearance from behind today’s cloud curtain.

At mid morning, thinking she was attending to the Weeping Birch Bed, I ventured out for a stint of clearing up after the Head Gardener’ general maintenance efforts, and received something of a shock.

Jackie had been diverted by the Rose Garden, upon the paths of which she had dropped considerable debris. That was clearly going to take precedence.

Nugget would keep getting under my feet as he foraged for his brood. In the first picture he has a beakful ready for transporting to yellow gapes at home. “Where’s Nugget?” (86) is the third image. Biggification may be required to spot him.

After I had bagged up and added to the compost bins all the weeding and clipping refuse, I had intended to sweep up the bits I couldn’t pick up, but our little robin familiar persuaded me to leave it for a while since he still found rich pickings.

I therefore concentrated on dead heading and photography.

Love Knot and the red carpet rose blend together with Alan Titchmarsh in the background; Just Joey is the large portrait; Rosa Gallica and Mamma Mia make good companions; the petunias and lobelia adorn a hanging basket over the Phantom Path.

After lunch I swept the Rose Garden paths and made more photographs, details of which can be gleaned from the gallery that can be accessed by clicking on any image.

I watched a minute cricket wandering between the petals of an Absolutely Fabulous rose.

Jackie had by then begun thinning out the wandering plants and their foliage that were choking the Weeping Birch Bed. I carried several trugfuls to the compost bins before collecting my camera from the house, because

Nugget wouldn’t go away and kept posing.

This picture shows how close he was to Jackie.

Half a dozen mice stand guard over the seedlings in the trough beside the frog pond. They are there to deter the lumbering wood pigeons from squashing the plants as they land lurching for a drink. In fact Jackie is beginning to wage war on pigeons. Those building the nest in the wisteria yesterday continue today. Every time the Head Gardener removes the sticks and shoos them off they return and start again. Given that they regularly drop both twigs and poo onto the bench below she does have a point.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s sausages in red wine; creamy mashed potato; crunchy carrots; and tender spring greens. The Culinary Queen drank Becks, and I drank more of the Douro opened a couple of days ago.

Socially Distanced Birthday Tea

Early this morning we shopped in two different garden centres for presents for Danni’s birthday today. I then made her a card featuring

a garden view containing a cockerel equipped with still functioning solar lights that our niece and nephew in law had given Jackie about three years ago.

The Head Gardener discovered a pile of telltale sticks on her newly swept garden furniture under the wisteria. There could only be one culprit. Sure enough a wood pigeon was nest building above her head. These clumsy birds mate all year round. Jackie had already cleaned guano from the bench, so the nest had to go.

This afternoon we met Danni, Andy, and Ella, at Elizabeth’s where we enjoyed an enjoyable couple of hours in hot sunshine imbibing Prosecco and a good dry white wine. Some also drank tea, and we all relished Elizabeth’s excellent carrot cake.

Ella is seen drinking from an empty cup. Further games involved clapping with a ribbon representing one of her parents’ road running medals round her neck, and pretend-watering plants.

My sister had arranged the tables and chairs by taking a tape measure to each group to enable social distancing.

The Popsicle kniphofia has been included for Ribana.

As usual, clicking on any image will access the gallery; the boxes under the right hand side of these enable viewing full size which can be further enlarged.

This evening we dined on spicy meat pizza with halloumi and plentiful fresh salad. No further alcohol was required.

To The Lighthouse

On another overcast morning Aaron, tasked with improving our stepping stone escape route from the Dead End Path to the patio, fetched some spare paving from his own home and

produced this level work. He was one stone short and will bring that next week.

I first read

in 1989. About 20 years later I read it again for the Upper Dicker Book Reading Group. Today I finished it once more in order to test my response to Louise DeSalvo’s biography. https://derrickjknight.com/2020/05/19/seeking-acquaintance/

I don’t remember ever reading another novel three times.

I enjoyed the work once more, no doubt with greater understanding. Perhaps all first novels are to some extent autobiographical, and, having been enlightened to the story of this most gifted writer’s childhood and adolescence, I have to agree that Mr and Mrs Ramsay are undoubtedly based on Mrs Woolf’s own parents. As it is my custom not to reveal spoiler details of the story, I will say no more about this.

This novel is an exceptional work of art. The symbol of the trip to the Lighthouse underpins the developing dissection of a family group’s relationships evoked with remarkable insight. As always the author’s language, given her abundance of detailed description, is elegantly economical. Every adjective, every adverb, every metaphor, every simile is made to count. (She makes good use of parenthesis and would not have countenanced this last sentence). Her punctuation is flawless, and her phrasing perfect, reflecting the numerous revisions she apparently made to her well crafted works.

Gilbert Phelps’s introduction is knowledgeable and educational.

The cloth boards are embossed with a design by the artist.

I confess to having been initially ambivalent about Maryclare Foa’s colour illustrations. Although very well composed with good palettes I found the distorted figures rather ponderous. Now, however, I believe the painter has captured the isolation of the individual characters much as Virginia’s sister Vanessa Bell did in her faceless paintings. It is a policy of the Folio Society to choose an illustrator who can represent the period.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s super savoury rice; a rack of pork ribs in barbecue sauce; salt and pepper prawns; and spring rolls with which she drank Becks and I drank more of the Douro.

Scents

On a sunny and mild morning I spent some time dead heading and transporting clippings to the compost bins.

Jackie pruned and tidied the lawn area, keeping me supplied with bags of refuse.

The eucalyptus has now been adorned with its pendant baskets.

Nugget played his game in “Where’s Nugget?” (84) and (85). A click on either image will access the gallery each picture of which can be viewed full size by clicking the box beneath it on the right and further enhanced if necessary.

Later, Jackie added twelve begonias to the now weeded bed above. This activity, of course, produced more robin fodder.

My dead heading took me through the Back Drive entrance arch scaled by clematis Margaret Hunt and along these borders containing fuchsias, poppies, antirrhinums, phlomis, and much more.

In the Rose Garden I focussed on the strongly scented Absolutely Fabulous, Deep Secret still bearing the raindrops that fell overnight, and Crown Princess Margareta; the bright magenta petunias in the urn; and the gentler, drifting, scent of Rosa Gallica.

Elsewhere the red bottle brush plants and various hemerocallises bloom.

It is well known that Jackie finds birds becoming imprinted on her.

What do I find?

Well, this afternoon, as I left the kitchen to offer the Head Gardener some water, I heard a buzzing in my hair, which has not been cut since the lockdown began. I could feel nothing, but gave it a good finger rake and shook it all about. I walked through the garden, still hearing buzzing. I raked once more. I returned to the house, poured some water for Jackie, carried it outside, returned, and settled with Virginia Wolf on my lap.

A fat, drowsy, bee dropped from my locks onto my shoulder. I flicked it into the fireplace and forgot about it. It must have been three quarters of an hour later when the creature clutched at my T-shirt. This time I flicked it onto the carpet and continued with my book.

When Jackie came in it was still crawling about. With the aid of a glass and a birthday card she carried it into the garden whereupon it flew into a spider’s web. You just can’t help some people.

After the excitement we dined on Jackie’s super spicy chilli con carne with her flavoursome savoury rice, with which she drank Becks and I drank more of the Douro.