Hedge Trimming

This morning I produced an A3 print of his choice for the paraglider from “Sunset Dancing”. Now we are back in National Lockdown handover will probably have to wait a while.

In the meantime Jackie photographed the farmer across Christchurch Road trimming his hedge. He didn’t really cause any disruption to traffic, although it was a little tight at times. The owls on our front fence were undisturbed. Note the thriving carpet rose.

Charles Dickens’s ‘Christmas Books’ is definitely a mixed bag. This afternoon I read ‘The Battle of Life – A love story’, first published in 1846. The narrative begins with a lovely bucolic description and a delightful dance giving us hope for joyful times ahead. There follows a rather boring sequence, more poetic word pictures, and a somewhat far-fetched conclusion, all featuring the author’s entertaining wry humour. Christopher Hibbert, in his introduction to my Folio Society edition, describes this ‘slight but dismal tale’ as a version of relationships and events in the author’s own life at this time. That rings true to me.

Beginning with the dance,

Charles Keeping’s wonderfully moving illustrations are as true as ever to the text.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s well-filled flavoursome beef and onion pie; crisp roast potatoes; crunchy carrots, cauliflower, and firm Brussels sprouts, with tasty, meaty, gravy, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Mendoza Malbec 2019

A Hefty Kick

The weather today, albeit dry, was at its most gloomy.

Even the animals kept away. When we took a brief forest drive there was a definite dearth of donkeys and a patent paucity of ponies,

except for a few grazing alongside Furzey Lane at Beaulieu. The first grey in this group, and the lone bay both bear the scars of torn fur. Maybe that is why the smaller bay gave the gentler grey a hefty kick out of the way before continuing with the matter in hand.

On our return I finished reading Charles Dickens’s third Christmas book, namely ‘The Cricket on The Hearth – A fairy tale of home’. I am happy to report that our great Victorian novelist, in this work, has recovered the deft touch that eluded him in ‘The Chimes’. This magical mystery story is well constructed, keeps the reader wondering, and contains all the writer’s ready humour and wry description. Beginning in a fog, all is revealed in a neatly packaged ending.

My Folio Society edition is enhanced by the apt illustrations of Charles Keeping, the frontispiece featuring a foggy scene.

This evening we dined on a second sitting of Hordle Chinese Take Away’s excellent fare with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Malbec,

Safe Distance Enjoyment

When a dull day began to brighten up we drove into the forest for a while.

Constantly changing skies,

reflected in pothole pools,

swept over the moorland bounding Holmsley Passage and its footpaths.

Sun-tipped ponies pastured on grass, bracken and holly on the borders of Burley golf course.

The forest car parks were all full to bursting. Overflow vehicles lined streets, lanes, and lay-bys. Nevertheless, visitors largely kept to their own discrete clusters.

Nowhere was this more apparent than at Rockford Sand Pit where family groups enjoying scaling the sandy hillside largely maintained social distance from each other.

This evening we dined on Mr Chan’s excellent Hordle Chinese Take Away fare with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank MV Reserve Malbec 2019 – a present from Shelly and Ron.

“He’s Not Going To Move His Lorry Any Time Soon”

This afternoon we followed a rather circuitous route to Ferndene Farm Shop where Jackie made some timely purchases without having to queue.

At Neacroft a weak sun silhouetted trees and houses and lightly illuminated the lane

beside which ducks scavenged before crossing to the other side.

Did you spot the decoy?

Moving on after waiting for the waddling ducks we were somewhat delayed by a pair of cyclists.

A tanker lorry on Bockhampton Road was a more serious blockage than either of the first two. There was no way round this one. Jackie was about to turn round when this action was aborted by a driver having arrived behind us who apparently knew better.

The cycle-laden motor passed us and, attempting to do the same with the tanker, came unstuck.

The cycle-carrier reversed enough to allow a passenger to emerge and remonstrate with a gentleman in the garden. The seemingly ineffective gesticulations had subsided somewhat before I photographed the exchange. Jackie wound down her window as the lady approached and informed her that “He’s not going to move his lorry any time soon”.

We allowed the other driver to make the first turn round, then did the same.

The weather vane on Owls barn sports both an unconcerned owl and an unafraid mouse.

As usual the River Avon at Avon had burst its banks and numerous swans had taken up winter residence in the water meadows. Jackie photographed me in action, and

a couple of shots of her own.

A pair of inquisitive donkeys basking in the remaining sunlight that pierced the arboreal backdrop of Priest Lane, Sopley, rose to their feet on my appearance.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy paprika pork, savoury rice, and tender runner beans. She had finished Rosé while cooking, so imbibed no more. I finished the Malbec.

Happy New Year!

Early on what would prove to be the brightest part of the day, Jackie disappeared into the garden and returned with

a range of frosty photographs, each of which is identified upon accessing the gallery by clicking on any image.

By the time we drove out to Elizabeth’s to wish her a socially distanced

the weather was becoming quite gloomy. My sister rushed out with her mobile phone, took this photograph, and e-mailed it to me. We stuck the poster in her lawn, had a brief chat, and drove away.

Jackie then parked beside the old quarry lake which I circumperambulated with my camera.

Shattered sheets of ice filled puddles on the verges

and scattered over the reflecting surfaces of the larger body of water, along which mallards floated.

Hard underfoot, pony poo, passed for Pontefract cakes direct from the freezer.

According to Jackie, seated in the Modus while I wandered among their less pampered equine cousins,

an inquisitive quartet of be-rugged field horses gathered at their gate to see what I was up to.

I was engaged in photographing the hardier breeds feeding on grass and gorse.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s onion rice; tempura prawns; and chicken tikka, with which she drank more of the Rosé and I drank more of the Malbec.

I Had Seriously Overdone It

Now we are back in full lockdown I took a walk along Christchurch Road to the

field leading to Honeylake Wood.

So far so good. I was not quite the only walker leaving footprints on the muddy track leading to

the leaf-laden undulating path down to the bridge

over the fast running stream. Reaching the bridge was the trickiest bit. As I slithered down the muddy slopes I grasped at branches rather too flexible in order to keep my balance, hoping they would hold and not dump me in the morass.

On the way down I was able to take in the surrounding woodland.

Soon I was on the upward, firmer, track,

bordered by undergrowth containing mossy logs, a discarded welly,

and bracken-covered woodland.

At the top of this slope I turned for home – just carrying myself and the camera was all I could manage, let alone use it, as, head down and gasping, I retraced my steps and staggered home, aware that I had seriously overdone it. I collapsed into a chair and rested for quite a while.

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

Unmemorable

‘The Chimes’ was Charles Dickens’s second Christmas Book. Dealing with England’s social ills in the first half of the 19th century through the medium of spirit goblins, in a somewhat similar manner to ‘A Christmas Carol’. This novella is subtitled ‘A Goblin Story of some bells that rang an old year out and a new one in’. I read my Folio Society edition today.

As usual, I will refrain from giving details so I will not reveal the ending which gives some sort of meaning to a story which, to my mind, does not hang together. A rather long-winded description of the kind of storm that we have just experienced introduces the bells and their nature; thereafter the tale limps along to a weak conclusion which, according to Christopher Hibbert’s introduction, brought the writer to ‘burst into tears’, seemingly of relief. Just as ‘A Christmas Carol’ focuses on a life-changing Christmas Eve, ‘The Chimes’ are concerned with a memorable New Year’s Eve.

The characters are unmemorable,

although the illustrator, Charles Keeping, has, as usual, brought them to life.

This evening we reprised yesterday’s dinner of lemon chicken and savoury rice with the addition of omelette topping with which Jackie drank Valle Central reserva privada rosée cuvée 2019 and I drank Trivento reserve Malbec 2019 – a present from Helen and Bill.

Soggy

Although the skies were to brighten later, when we drove into the forest this morning light flakes of fluffy snow had already evaporated to integrate with liquid precipitation.

Jackie parked the Modus at Crockford Clump and I squelched across

waterlogged moorland and clambered over undulating slopes the basins of which became their own

reflecting, rippling, reservoirs refilled by pattering raindrops dripping from twigs above into the otherwise silent streams below.

Lichen layered arboreal limbs lay shattered among soggy autumn leaves; a perky robin roamed from tree to tree.

A friendly woman walking her dogs told me about the snow and a herd of deer she had seen earlier. Paddy, one of her dogs, lolloped over to me in search of treats and took no for an answer.

Ponies occupied the tarmac at East Boldre whilst communing with a couple of field horses.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s lemon chicken and savoury rice with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Cotes du Rhone.

The Death Of Faurez

This morning I finished the final section of Barbara W Tuchman’s ‘The Proud Tower’, namely ‘The Death of Faurez – The Socialists: 1890-1914’. Focussing on the international rise of Socialism and the International meetings to further it, Tuchman describes how Faurez became the leading figure in the attempt to unite working men to strike in the event of war. We now know that this was unsuccessful; what I had not previously known was that Faurez himself was assassinated on the eve of Austria’s mobilisation against Serbia resulting from the much more notorious murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s creamy pasta arrabbiata with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Le Chene Noir Cotes du Rhone 2019.

Late Afternoon

The 106 m.p.h. wind that ripped through The Needles overnight howled around our house and garden.

Numerous plant pots were blown down;

tables and the new pig hit the deck;

owls were knocked off their perches;

broken branches and scattered trugs tossed around;

an arch bent and a rose dislodged. I had the sun in my eyes when the rose accosted me and pierced both my head and my jacket.

Late this afternoon we drove to Milford on Sea watching wild waves whipping up spray, lashing wooden breakwaters and wetting glistening rocks. Gulls swooped overhead; numerous walkers braced the bitterly cold wind. One group descended the slippery shingle, then attempted to avoid the rippling waves licking their feet. One young lady had forgotten to cover her legs.

It was hardly surprising that no-one sat at the picnic tables of the Needles Eye Cafe standing in reflecting pools.

My fingers tingled enough to send me back into the car while I waited for the sunset.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s post-Christmas soup with crusty bread followed by gooseberry and apple crumble with which the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Montaria.