The North/South Divide

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Today was another dull one with little sun after 10 a.m. This morning we took a motorised stroll through the forest

Breakfast

and brunched at Hyde-Out Café where I enjoyed a tastefully presented full English.

Cyclists on road 1

Just outside Bashley the first bunch of cyclists began disrupting the traffic.

Rubbish in stream

Someone had recently lobbed food packaging into the stream crossing Holmsley Passage, along which we passed the resident of

Modern House

the modern house that was once the site of the crossing keeper’s cottage.

Ponies on outfield 1Ponies on outfield 4

At Burley ponies had been engaged to mow the outfield of the cricket green.

Ponies on outfield 3

Some took a break,

Ponies on outfield 2

and, for one, the task had become all too exhausting.

Braggers Lane

It being the grockle season, only the narrower lanes like Braggers were free of cyclists and other cars designed to send drivers onto the verges.

Cyclists on road 2Cyclists on road 3Cyclists on road 4

More common were crocodiles like these escorted children wobbling along

Irises 3

opposite the irises blooming in Whitemoor Pond.

Foxgloves 1Foxgloves 2Foxgloves 3

Mauve foxgloves stood proudly erect all over the forest.

Orchids and ferns 1Orchids and ferns 2Orchids and ferns 3

On the slopes on other side of the road leading into Bolderwood, where the first two of these pictures were taken, wild orchids clustered among the curling ferns.

Orchids, ferns, and bottleBottle in ferns

Someone had lobbed a bottle into this lovely landscape.

Tree stump

Logging had been carried out in the vicinity of this stump with its moss-covered exposed roots.

Foal and ponies

The A31, that bisected the forest into North and South, spans the road through Bolderwood, bringing the modern world into stark contrast with the historic home of this equine family whose ancestors grazed the forest floors for centuries.

Horse riders

One of two riders crossing the heath on the other side of the main thoroughfare gave me a pleasant smile, after which we exchanged waves.

For our dinner this evening Jackie produced tasty chicken thighs marinaded in lemon and herbs and roasted with peppers; boiled potatoes, carrots, and green beans.

 

 

 

The Cat’s Paws

This morning Jackie carried out further heavy weeding of the oval bed, whilst I didn’t quite manage to empty the bath.

First I had to reach the object of my attention. This involved pruning the box hedge which was its first line of defence. Then that of brambles had to be breached. Then what I had cut away had to be transported to the pile for burning. Then I had to balance on the rim of the bath and try to make an indentation in the soil and rubbish it contained. Then I shovelled out spadefuls trying to place them somewhere sensible. It was easier when I could stand inside it. Every so often I climbed out and tried to tip it up. It’s no good, I am going to have to take everything out of it before I can even shift it. I do hope it is not made of cast iron. Just In case anyone doubts that yesterday’s picture was indeed of a bath, this is a photograph showing how far I have progressed:Bath in garden

This afternoon we drove to Bitterne to visit The First Gallery’s exhibition of works by Alvin Betteridge and M.H.Clarke. Although the exhibits are not the same as the earlier show, this was the first day of a weekend’s reprisal of the gallery’s first exhibition forty years ago. We arrived between the day’s open show and the later private viewing. If you are interested in original works of art by an established artist and her guests, often equally well known, at reasonable prices ‘in a domestic setting’, you could do worse that visit them at http://www.TheFirstGallery.co.uk, or better still at home at No. 1 Burnham Chase. We did, in fact, make a purchase which we left with Paul who runs a picture framing surface from the same address. Margery and her son Paul, are good friends of ours and we had an enjoyable conversation before returning to Old Post House.

We didn’t quite manage to go directly home. Ever trying to find routes through the New Forest which don’t involve the usually slow crawl through Lyndhurst, Jackie decided to continue along the A31 to Forest Road from whence she would drive through Emery Down. Forest Road was still closed to traffic following repairs to the cattle grid which should have been completed well before now. It does seem to be a feature of the area that roads are sealed off for works that don’t take place for months on end. With the occasional mild expletive, my chauffeuse continued along the major road to the Burley turn off. By this time we had developed a taste for a Chinese meal and I suggested a greater diversion through Brockenhurst where we could dine at Yenz Chinese restaurant which we had enjoyed as recently as 3rd April. This was not to be. From opposite the establishment I crossed the road in rain reminiscent of last year’s waterlogged summer, to read a notice saying that the business had closed down.

Now what? Well, we could try Lymington. We did. As we wandered along the High Street, Lymington looked remarkably quiet and closed for a holiday centre on a Saturday night in summer. Tesco’s was open, so Jackie went in and enquired. Fusion InnStartersMainsShe was directed to the far end of town to Fusion Inn. It wasn’t serving Chinese food, but, much more appropriately termed fusion, Thai. ‘That’ll do’, we said. And it most certainly did. The food was excellent; the service friendly and efficient; and the Tiger beer thirst-quenching.

Still serving as a pub, the integral restaurant provides the fusion bit. By inference, we have surmised that the building dates from the 1750s. This is because of the legend on a brass plaque affixed to the wall by our table. According to the manager the pub was originally called ‘The Old English Gentleman’; later it became ‘The Black Cat’; and eleven years ago ‘Fusion Inn’. The feline name came from a brick in the wall.Cat's paw print 1 A small section of the brickwork in a plastered wall has been left free of rendering. This is to expose the paw prints of a cat that we are told would have been left in the wet brick in the 1750s. It was found by John Allison during restoration work.

After The Deluge 2

Yesterday evening Bill drove Helen, Jackie, and me to the Fuchi Chinese fusion restaurant in Totton. One of their favourites, this establishment is rather more up-market than Family House, which remains one of ours. The food was first class, and the service excellent, once we had struggled through the accent of our beautiful waitress with her very strong accent. This young lady understood us very well and spoke very good English once you could get your ears adjusted. It was quite fun really.

There was something of a pause between dishes, obviously the result of everything being freshly cooked. Helen chose a dish served in a hot stone pot with a fried egg on top of it. The man I took to be the young proprietor tossed this, mixing in the egg, and served it to Helen, informing her that it was enough for three people. We all had a share. It was good.

Jasmine teapotJasmine teapot 3Jasmine teapot 5The highlight came at the end of the meal. This was Helen’s jasmine tea. The hand-made clear glass teapot was perched on a stand of the same material. Now I know why tea lights, one of which was placed under the pot, are so called. A rounded teabag was undone. It contained what looked like a small walnut. This was dropped into the hot water, and we watched, fascinated, as a beautiful flower unfolded in the gradually darkening liquid reflected in the shiny black composite table. I don’t know what the tea tasted like.

Castle Malwood signA31

Pool & treeRipped branchSnatching sunshine between showers after another night of heavy rain, risking losing a shoe to the suction of the bog it now is, I wandered around the small section of forest that lies between our Upper Drive and the A31. It has taken a heavy toll in recent months.Fallen treeRoot & pool One huge branch has been ripped from its trunk. Deep pits, once dug for gravel, not yet filled by autumn leaves and other detritus, are now small lakes reflecting such surrounding trees that are still standing, and aiding the erosion of those that have fallen. Ponies visit for a drink and a meal of lichen and holly, now much more easily accessible.

Against the lightRipple & reflectionRipplePoolsReflection

Mossy trunkShadowsAs I walked out, raindrops from a recent shower, still sliding from branches overhead, dripped pattering onto last October’s leaves and forming ripples on the lakelets.

Bright emerald green moss contrasted with the soggy russet leaves on which the sun radiated long, strong, shadows.Telephone cableSawn trunk

The telephone cable brought down by the toppling, large, lichen-covered tree on 11th February still trails along the verge. It is itself undamaged.

WaterloggedWaterlogged 2

Much of the area is completely waterlogged.

Sun through treesbacklit reflection

Reflections seen against the light of the sun penetrating the trees are seen in silhouette.

On 28th February I observed that the evolution of what starts out as compost soup can be very varied. For today’s lunch this became chicken stoup (stew/soup). Added to the soup of that date was the remaining rich liquid from the evening’s sausage casserole and some freshly cooked further chunks of chicken. Superb.

Smoked cod, baked beans and chips accompanied by Roc Saint Vincent Sauvignon blanc 2012 provided our evening sustenance.

Water

I have mentioned Becky’s lesson on tagging. The way I am implementing this is to tag a few posts a day. This morning it was the turn of ‘A Rant’ from Aust 13th 2012. Whilst I was in the process of drawing my readers’ attention to my displeasure with O2 and Azzurri, I received a phone call from O2. Most politely, I terminated the conversation fairly quickly. Jackie was a little perplexed that this intervention had me screaming with laughter.

Today’s weather forecast had promised that the steady rain would desist soon after noon, when we would have fine weather until 8 p.m.  By mid afternoon we decided we couldn’t wait any longer for the fine weather and would drive to Ringwood. This was a signal for the rains to accelerate. Considerably.Castle Malwood Lodge through wet windscreen For us, peering through the windscreen as we clambered into the car, already pretty wet from our walk across the path to it, the view of our home was Upper drive through hailstones on windscreenmuch distorted. Crashing over the cattle grid leading to Upper Drive, the rain turned to hail.

A31

Traffic on the A31 was pretty solid, but as the rain let up a little, so did the blockage, and we were soon under way.  Upon arrival, Jackie set off for Sainsbury’s, and I made my way through the town, and across The Bickerley to the Castleman Trailway.

Today, I was forced into a detour that had not been necessary on 14th. Kingsbury's Lane (1) Ignoring the flood warding signs at the entrance to Kingsbury’s Lane, I walked down it. The red Peugeot on the right seemed accessible, and it wouldn’t be much further after that.Kingsbury's Lane Big mistake. When I reached the Escapade I backtracked and took the next lane along.

Sewage overflowWhen I had photographed this scene on 23rd December 2012, I had described a steady flow of liquid coming from beneath a concrete cover in a garden, as emanating from a burst water main. The same stream was bursting forth to join the rest of the flood on the road. It contained toilet paper. I was informed by a man who waded down the road in wellies, that this was the mains sewage, which could also be seen spouting from under a metal cover in the road itself.

Before going on to cross the sodden Bickerley I walked along to the pillar box end of the flooded street to inspect the scene there. This is where I met my informant. Kingsbury's Lane (2)He had been able carefully to traverse the hopefully temporary lake in his Wellingtons. A philosophical character, he took it all in his stride. ‘Could do without the sewage though’, he exclaimed.

Flloded fields

Castleman TrailwayAs I approached the Trailway it was immediately apparent that the River Avon and the millstream between them had completely claimed the surrounding fields. For some little time now there have been no ponies in residence. Today they would have stood no chance of keeping their feet dry or finding any food. I imagine they had been removed in anticipation of this.

The torrent from above had ceased by the time I reached the flooded street. When I was close enough to the Avon to hear it rushing to join the millstream, in partnership with which it was rapidly turning the fields into an expanding lake, the rain began again.Sunset Sunset (1)On my lens it produced bizarre effects most of which, except for one at sunset, I have since discarded. On the other hand, it has been difficult to discard all those of the sun, claiming illumination rights to the sunken fields.

On 30th November 2012, I had seen woman rescuing her ponies from the field I focussed on today. A five barred metal gate bars the way into what is now a waterlogged area.Sunset (3)Sunset (2) The gate bears a sign warning dog owners to protect the livestock within from their canine invaders. The only living creatures in there now are the waterfowl paddling upon it. Swan taking off in sunsetSwan in sunsetAs I leant on this barrier in order to photograph the sun subsiding beneath the waves, a loud flapping reminded me of this fact. A swan in the act of taking off came into view. It flew over the sun’s reflection on the waterlogged grassland.

Wishing to avoid the slow-moving A31 on our return journey, we travelled via Bransgore, along winding roads full of pools, in the dark. To describe this experience would be to repeat some of the content of yesterday’s post.

Soon after our return home we dined on a hearty beef casserole with crisp vegetables, followed by creme brûlée. I finished the Bergerac and Jackie drank Hoegaarden.

‘If It’s Worth A Photograph……’

Regent Street lights001Today’s advent picture is similar to the first, but has a different coloured central star.  This seems to me to offer far more variation than one would see today.  It is worthy of note that there are very few pedestrians admiring the window display and the vehicles on Regent Street in December 1963 are all taxis or buses.

As we set off for Southampton Parkway this morning, foraging ponies loomed out of a heavy mist weakly penetrated by a myopic sun resembling a haloed full moon shrouded by thick clouds.  Visibility on the A31 was most meagre.  There were some clear patches on the M27 giving layered views of the bordering forest trees.  Foreground silhouettes would give way to a barely visible row followed by bright golden ones.  The pattern would be repeated into the distance.

By the time my train had reached Waterloo the sun’s warmth had drawn most of the mist up into the ether. Westminster BridgeHouses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge That which lingered over the Thames presented dreamy views of Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament.  London Eye, Westminster Bridge, Houses of ParliamentAn oriental gentleman resting a super-long lens on the parapet of the Golden Jubilee Bridge told me what stunning sights he had just seen from the top of the London Eye.  I apprised him of the reason I was unable to emulate him.

Bangles stall

The Christmas fair on South Bank flourished.  One of the stalls sold its own version of festive lighting. Christmas decorations stall Like Catherine wheels they spun, expanded, and contracted.  The timing of this photograph was a delicate matter of trial and error.

Blue CockerelCrossing The Strand and walking through Trafalgar Square I was afforded a clearer view of the blue cockerel poised either to drink from the fountain or to peck at Nelson’s other eye.  I now understand that the sculpture is not French after all.  It is the work of German artist Katharina Fritsch who describes it as ‘feminist’.

Pirate living statueOn the piazza before the National Gallery a diminutive, motionless pirate perched on his own plinth.  Dropping £1 into his hat I said: ‘If it’s worth a photograph, it’s worth a donation’.  Silently, without moving any other, even facial, muscle, like a jointed puppet, he raised his glass in acknowledgement.  I don’t know whether he had been aware I’d shot him.

From the square I walked up Haymarket to Piccadilly Circus and along Piccadilly itself to Green Park where I boarded a Jubilee Line train to Neasden and thence to Norman’s. Eros in a bubble Eros, presumably in preparation for the revelries to come, is now encased in a bubble.

Bagman

A bagman I had seen over the years in numerous parts of London adjusted his load after having effected bicycle repairs.

Fortnum & Mason WindowFortnum & Mason Window (1)

Fortnum and Mason’s windows reflected the seasonal mood.

At Green Park I was to regret parting with my last coin.  I needed a pee, which can now only be obtained by inserting 30p into a machine.  So I had to ask the man at the ticket office to change a £10 note.  The smallest coin he gave me was 50p.  The machines don’t give change, so what once cost one old penny was subject to 120x inflation.

Norman fed us on a roast turkey and Christmas pudding lunch with which we shared an excellent bottle of Vacqueras 2011, after which I took my usual route to Carol’s and then on to Waterloo.  Jackie collected me from Southampton.

Stampede

A strong smell of overheated paint came from our very effective new radiator this morning so Jackie opened the sitting room windows.  I wondered whether the new appliance might be a wee bit counterproductive.

I spent the morning on my laptop, effectively putting off the search for the advent calendars in the garage.  We had made a start on this task yesterday evening.  This involved trying to find a way through to the back of the boxes of books placed in there by Globe Removals on 2nd September. As it turned out, we had in fact extracted the correct calendar container without realising it, so Jackie fished the required items out straight  away.

IMG_6713Unfortunately we discovered that, because of the uneven weights of the book boxes, there were a number of accidents waiting to happen.  In truth, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to lift them.  With Jackie’s help, it proved to be entirely possible to tidy the stacks, and in the process, I unearthed most of my photo albums.

My archival system is such that it is sometimes easier to locate a photograph from the print in one of the albums, which will then tell me, with any luck, whether I need to find a negative or a slide.  Or maybe, as today, I just wanted a suitable picture of a subject and it didn’t really matter exactly when it had been taken.  In this manner, the finding of the albums made it possible for me to locate a shot of Michael and his dog Piper. Michael & Piper 6.77 I wanted this to illustrate earlier posts about the boy and his foundling, especially one concerning the advent of the dog.  It was a colour slide taken in Horse & Dolphin Yard in June 1977.  I didn’t need to do any more than take out a few dust specks.

Jackie walking by Andrew's Mare

Jackie by Andrew's Mare

Pony in pondIt being another glorious autumn day we drove up to the Andrew’s Mare car park and both walked a tour of the ponds.  Amazingly, but for a pony slaking its thirst and having a paddle, we had this usually quite crowded spot to ourselves.  Pony leaving pondPony in pond (backlit)The pony showed its displeasure at receiving my attention, by walking up out of one pool and, attempting to blind me by the sun, stepping into another.

The animal could not have known that its peaceful ablutions were soon to be disturbed by a band of marauding dogs of varying breeds that were being decanted from a number of vehicles as we returned to the car park.  We had just missed dog walkers’ rush hour.  Whilst it is very encouraging that these animals have the area in which to romp and chase sticks, it is a great shame that the beautiful spot is fouled by heaps of their excreta that their owners have not seen fit to remove.  We know that pony droppings are found everywhere in the forest, but their recycled material is not the same as that of carnivores.Buzzard feathers in gorse

The remnants of a buzzard caught in a gorse bush blended rather well with the yellow flowers.

Throughout this walk we heard a steady roar from the A31.  A31  from Andrew's MareThe sun glinted on the vehicles which could be seen from just one point, demonstrating that we were standing further away from the road than we would be in our own garden.  Nevertheless we do not hear it at home.

Pony BookendsWhen we arrived at the car park we noticed what Jackie described as ‘bookends’ in equine form. Pony bookends in bracken Apart from one which turned its back on its companion under Jackie’s scrutiny, neither of these creatures moved a muscle, not even an eyelid, for the whole of our period at the site.

Pony's breath

It is now cold enough for the ponies’ breath once more to form visible swirls of steam.  That way we could tell that they were real.

From here we drove, via Emery Down and Bolderwood, under the A31 to the villages to the north, and back via Godshill along Roger Penny Way, catching the splendid sunset as we motored.

Cattle crossingA galloping cow, for those of you who have never seen one, is not a pretty sight. Cattle climbing Ungainly at the best of times these milk suppliers with bodies too large for their slender legs, and bones sticking out all over the place, lollop along from side to side, seeming at any moment likely to collapse like grounded kites.  It is even less attractive when there is a large herd of them thundering down from one high field, stampeding across the road in the midst of bewildered traffic, and climbing a well-trodden footpath on the other side.  We know, because we had plenty of time to sit and await their Ibsley Common at sunsetdeparture when they did just that as we approached Ibsley Common, incidentally owned by the National Trust.  Maybe, unlike the ponies, they had run out of steam once they had crossed the road, because their uphill climb was more laboured.

Chicken marinaded in mustard and lemon sauceEarly this evening we dined on another of Jackie’s beautifully presented symphonic masterpieces; a study in ochre and cream with a dash of green, represented by chicken marinaded and baked in mustard and lemon sauce, cauliflower cheese, sautéed potatoes and nuggets of runner beans.  It tasted as good as it looks.  I have to admit that I served myself.  Had Jackie done so, there would have been no sauce splashed on the rim of the plate, and one of the beans would not have broken free.  I drank some more of the Valdepenas Gran Familia reserve 2007, whilst Jackie’s choice was Isla Negra sauvignon blanc reserve 2012.

Then The Tableau Spoke

Wimborne Minster

Taking more advantage of these glorious autumn days, we drove this Wimborne Minster from car parkWimborne Minster from Priest's House gardenmorning to Wimborne to visit The Priest’s House Museum and wander around the little town, including the Minster itself.

Somewhat surrounded by its environment, it is difficult to find a complete, unobstructed, view of the Minster, the greater part of which was built in the twelfth century.  From wherever you are in the town, however; for example in the garden of the museum, or the car park nearby; at least one of its two towers is visible.

The splendid building is beautifully lit by its numerous stained glass windows, which set the very walls aglow.Stained glass

The sheer scope of the stonework of the walls and windows is awe-inspiring, yet there is a lightness of touch that lifts the spirit.

Anthony Et(t)ricke's coffinA niche in one of the internal walls contains the coffin of Anthony Et(t)ricke.  A notice informs us that this clearly eccentric gentleman was convinced he would die in 1693 and had his intended coffin inscribed accordingly.  In the event, he lived for another ten years, and when the time came to lay him to rest a rather unsuccessful attempt to change the date of decease to 1703 was made.

Quarterjack - Version 2High up outside a window in one of the towers stands the Quarter Jack, now a symbol of Wimborne.  He has for centuries stood watching over the town, and still, as he did for us waiting at 2.00 p.m., strikes his flanking bells with his hammers.

The visit to the Minster came after we had lunched in the cafe in the garden of The Priest’s House Museum after an enjoyable tour of that establishment.  Another in a growing number of local history museums we have visited, this one is imaginatively conceived and executed, having both permanent displays and particular periodic exhibitions.  It is, as we were to learn, a thriving activity centre for children who are encouraged to hunt for objects in the house and grounds, and to engage in activities, such as cooking on the kitchen range, that were undertaken in days gone by.

There are various rooms on the first floor, housing cabinets containing artefacts relevant to the history of East Dorset. Mrs King's Parlour First of all, on the ground floor, there are rooms dedicated to tableaux, such as Mrs King’s parlour, where Elizabeth, a mercer’s widow is seen discussing building plans with John Mitchell, her master plumber, who is known to have worked on the site in the eighteenth century.

The schoolroom was fascinating.Schoolroom  The cane hanging over the blackboard was an authentic touch.  Today’s date, in fine copper plate handwriting, was inscribed on the blackboard.  The plastic pencil container on the teacher’s desk was perhaps an aberration.  What fascinated me was the pairs of desks, which enthralled two small children who, having visited earlier in the week, had brought their parents back for a second visit.  Their eyes opened wide when I told them I had sat beside Maureen Potter in one of those very same desks when I had been a little boy.

Margery RyanMoving on from this conversation, I entered the Victorian kitchen, laid out with all its accoutrements, complete with an elderly woman with a shawl round her shoulders and a book in her hands before a lighted kitchen range.  This truly was an authentic tableau, with just one figure of the period in situ.  Then she spoke.  I laughed wholeheartedly, and said I had thought she was a model. She told me that a small boy earlier had thought the same thing, and had been most surprised when she greeted him.

This was Margery Ryan who was clearly one of the volunteers, and a wealth of information, including that of the children’s activities.  They were encouraged to make toast with one of the toasting forks hanging beside the kitchen range, just as I and my siblings had done by an open fire in our sitting room at Stanton Road. Mangle I remembered how, on a coal fire, you had to take your hand away every now and again because it got pretty hot.

We spoke for a long time, before and after we were joined by Jackie.  Margery, contemporary with our friend Margery Clarke, was proud of the fact that her name was spelt the proper way.

Perhaps the greatest surprise to me was the sight of the very mangle in which I had trapped Chris’s finger when we were very small.  I swear it was the same one.  How it had made its way there I’ll never know.

Having finally torn myself away from Margery, I ventured upstairs.  There was much to intrigue in the cabinets.  It is strange to see everyday objects from your own lifetime consigned to museum cabinets.Roller skates and skipping rope  For example in the childhood room, side by side, lay the roller skates and skipping rope of the 1940s.  Many a knee had I barked on the pavements of Stanton Road whilst trying to keep upright on my Ashby adjustable rollers;  and we boys joined in all the girls’ skipping games and contests about who could do the most skips without tripping up.

The 15th February 1971 was decimal day.  This was when the pounds, shillings, and pence of our sterling currency made way for the coinage we have today.  Overnight we had to learn that 244 pennies no longer made £1, for that was now divided into 100p.  Interestingly we still use the old sterling symbol, £, for pound, but a penny is a p, not a d, the previous Latin abbreviation. Sterling notes So it was fun to see a wallet in the gents’ costume gallery revealing £1 and 10 shilling notes.  The largest of the coins resting on the open wallet was half a crown, eight of which made £1.  This was quite a lot of money for a small boy.  Especially one who bit his nails.  Half a crown was the reward Auntie Gwen offered me to stop biting mine.  I earned it.  Then I bit them again.  Then I earned it again.  I think I tumbled to the idea of this being a good wheeze before my godmother did and that particular source of extra pocket money dried up.

The Priest's House garden

We vowed to return, especially as one admission ticket is good for a year’s season ticket, to see the long narrow garden in its prime.  Apart from an interesting array of shrubs and flowers, it contains heritage apple and pear trees.

A31

From the Minster we finally returned home.  The lowering sun made even the A31 look delightful, HeathlandTrees and brackenTrees on heathand we took the Ocknell turn off so we could watch the last rays lighting up Stoney Cross Plain.

Ponies and photographerA small Shetland type pony turned its head disdainfully as two of its cousins demeaned themselves by forming the backdrop to a visitor’s photograph.

After a full day we tried out the Family House Chinese restaurant in Totton.  The ambiance was homely, greeting warm and welcoming, the service friendly and efficient, and the food good.  We both drank Tsingtao beer.  We will go there again.