Regeneration

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Today I was mostly digging up brambles and pruning dead branches from a yellow Japanese maple in the Palm Bed,

seen here beyond the Cryptomeria Bed stepping stones.

The red one was looking rather splendid in the morning light.

Magnolia Vulcan

The magnolia Vulcan, one of a row of shrubs lining the fence shared with Mistletoe Cottage, is about to flower for the first time. Like the others this was choked by the jungle that was the garden when we first moved in.

Rhododendron 1

Similarly a poor, spindly, little rhododendron that Jackie brought back to life, now shines its beacon in the middle of the Palm Bed. The roots of this were, like those of so many shrubs we inherited, pot-bound, and not properly planted.

Rhododendron 2

The pink rhododendron

Tree peony

and the yellow tree peony, have tied in the race to full bloom.

Iris

I am happy to say that my weeding of the Back Drive borders has freed rows of irises.

The viburnum plicatum is now brightening the West Bed shrubbery,

Weigela

and weigela drapes the south fence.

Apple blossom

Today’s final example of our efforts at regeneration has been affected by the light frosts we have been experiencing recently. The apple blossom suggested the tree has benefited from pruning, but the petals are now somewhat charred.

Hardly credible in April, the traditional month of showers, Jackie has today performed a considerable amount of watering.

The Raj is the current incarnation of the Indian restaurant constantly changing hands in Old Milton. Tonight we dined on their good quality takeaway food. My main choice was prawn Ceylon with special fried rice. We shared poppadoms, paratha, and onion bhajis. I drank Château Plessis grand vin de Bordeaux 2014.

Emily Goes Wandering

On a warm, overcast, morning I repeated yesterday’s promenade matinale. The staccato stabbing of a staple gun applied by a young man working on the ‘massive’ project of Hallmark builders in the grounds of The Spinney, followed me down the lane.

Apple blossom

Having been prompted by two WordPress friends, who thought yesterday’s blossom may be apple, I probed further into the hedgerow and came to the conclusion that they were right. There appear to be two espaliered trees. Perhaps there was once an orchard here.

For a while during the 1990s I returned to using negative, as opposed to positive, film. These negatives became jumbled and possibly lost during the move from Lindum House. I therefore used a print from one of my vast collection of photo albums for the VE Day 50th anniversary picture published yesterday. During that May of 1995 we enjoyed particularly fine weather. Today I scanned a batch of prints of photographs taken that month. Our Newark garden was a typical Victorian one, and therefore boasted an orchard.Orchard 5.95

I wonder whether the flower beds still contain

Iris 5.95

irises,

Lupins and aquilegias 5.95

lupins, and aquilegias.

Jessica, Michael and Emily 5.95

Does the stone path laid by Matthew about five years earlier, using material found in the garden, still survive alongside the kitchen wall?. Here Jessica, Michael and Emily stroll along it.

Michael and Heidi’s daughter Emily was my first grandchild. This was the occasion of one of the family’s regular holidays at Lindum House. Oliver and Alice had yet to arrive.Michael and Emily.5.95

You may be forgiven for thinking that it is my hair that Emily tousles in this shot,

Emily and doll.5.95 002

but the locks belonged to her frighteningly realistic doll, which she must have left on the asphalt path when she went wandering.
Emily 5.95 002Emily 5.95 006Emily 5.95 009Emily 5.95 005Emily 5.95 008

Emily 5.95 010

The swing seat in the top left of this final shot of Emily on the lawn was suspended by Melvin Garret from a lofty branch of the acacia beneath which I was seated in yesterday’s picture. Grandchildren and neighbours’ offspring enjoyed it for fifteen years or so.

This evening we dined on roast chicken breasts marinaded in piri-piri sauce; roasted leeks, mushrooms, and peppers; and boiled potatoes. I drank Campo Vieja rioja 2013, while Jackie drank sparkling water.

A Metaphor

This morning I finished reading the final book of Chesterton’s Father Brown stories. I have to say that these last works are not, on the whole, as enjoyable as the earlier ones. The writer seems to philosophise rather too much for this particular genre and to overwork the language. He seeks alliteration to the extent that the flow of the prose is disturbed. Exceptions are the last two tales, ‘An Insoluble Problem’, and ‘The Vampire of the Village’.

Apple tree

Untended fruit trees tend to send stems vertically skyward. So it was with the one tree we left in the cleared kitchen garden. We did, however, prune it heavily. Although much smaller, it now has a reasonable shape, and enough blossom to suggest there will be more than the meagre three apples we enjoyed last autumn.Apple blossom 1Apple blossom 2

Perceptive readers of ‘Becky’s Book’, knowing what came later, will realise that the apple tree in that story was a metaphor for the home I lost in Amity Grove. The current one symbolises a celebration of reunion.

This afternoon I worked in a similar manner to yesterday on a batch of colour slides I made of Jackie in November 1972. Here I present just two of them:Jackie 11.72 003 - Version 3Jackie 11.72008 - Version 3By this time I was no longer living in the family home, but visited at weekends to collect the children, and hopefully spend some time with their mother.

There are far too many classic books I have never got round to reading. One of these is Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’. I have owned my Folio Society edition since its publication in 1996. Early this evening I read its unusual Introduction, by the writer Albert French. The original approach of this piece comes from its being an autobiographical sketch by a Black American teenage Marine on his way to serve in Vietnam. He knows what the book is about.

The proprietor of Hordle Chinese Take Away, who provided this evening’s dinner, has been dubbed ‘Mr Chatty Man’ by Jackie, because he is. Tonight she chose the set meal for two. We had such generous portions of rice, containing goodies such as prawns; sweet and sour chicken balls; chicken in black bean sauce; beef in ginger and spring onions; and amply filled pancake rolls, that we held some back for tomorrow’s lunch. My hefty pancake roll caused me some difficulty, and Jackie a certain amount of horrified amusement.

Have you ever tried to eat a large filled pancake with chopsticks?

We normally pick up that particular item of food with our fingers. Mine was too hot. First I tried to grasp it with the sticks. The roll slid off, and the chopsticks snapped shut. I tried spearing it with no more success. I resorted to repeated stabbing it and gripping the spilled innards with the implements. This wasn’t much more successful. I was relieved when it had cooled down enough for me to use my fingers. Mind you, it was falling to bits by then. So I returned to the chopsticks. With the meal I drank some of the Les Cornalines Chateuneuf du Pape 2013, which had been given to us by Anne on her visit a couple of days ago.

 

Lambing Time

This morning I walked along Christchurch Road to New Milton to visit the bank to make a transfer and the station to check train times for my next London visit. Jackie shopped in Lidl then met me in the car park near the Council Office and drove me home.

Along the busy, meandering, and undulating main road lay fields of sheep. Sheep shelteringApple blossomFour childless ewes in a small field sheltered from the drizzling rain that lent a sparkle in the morning light to roadside trees, some displaying apple blossom.Sheep & suckling lambSheep & lambs

A suckling lamb’s tail wagged up and down, possibly, like a small dog, in anxiety, until it had grasped the teat. Further along the road others showed the usual inquisitiveness at my passing. All bore identification colouring.lamb & sheep

A small corner of a field on the left hand side of the road seems to be where the very young creatures begin their lives.

Gravel heaps

Variegated gravel heaps seem a not unattractive feature of the landscape.

The one door in the house now capable of being locked is that to the family bathroom. This was not always the case. Bathroom door lockThe catch plate, you see, was screwed in at a level placing its bottom screw in the lowest hole that can be seen in the door-jamb. Obviously the lock was not aligned with it. Maybe the idea of moving this down had been abandoned. I repositioned the receptive piece this afternoon. Black headed gullThe door itself doesn’t bear too much scrutiny.

David Fergusson was unable to deliver the chests of drawers today, because his son has had an emergency appendectomy.

Later, when I walked down to the post box, shrieking black headed gulls swooped over the stubble field.

This evening we dined at The Royal Oak. My choice was steak and ale pie; Jackie’s was breaded scampi with a side of onion rings. I had a starter of vegetable soup; she finished with New York Cheesecake; I enjoyed apple crumble. My beer was Flack’s; Jackie’s was Becks.

Imperial Knob Screws

GardenGarden urnCherry blossomApple blossomThe garden was looking very inviting today, blossom, such as apple and ornamental cherry abounding, but the house itself remains a priority for our attention.

Flo is coming a day earlier, so we set out early to B & Q, the national DIY company originally set up by Messrs Block & Quayle in Southampton in 1969. Marks & Spencer’s, is of course, another large national outlet known by its founders’ initials. Our high streets are also graced by C & A and H & M stores; the first being the first name initials of the Dutch entrepreneurs who founded the store in 1841, and the second from the surnames of Swedes Hennes & Mauritz in 1947. C and A were Clemens and August Brenninkmeijer. As Michael Caine famously claims never to have said, ‘not a lot of people know that’.

Now, where was I? Ah, yes. B & Q.

We went in search of curtain rails and the missing screws from the door knobs that fell off on 31st March. Jackie found the curtain rails whilst  I rummaged through rows and rows of screws, bolts and nuts seeking something that might possibly fit the bar I had in my pocket. I only found two fittings that might vaguely serve the purpose. Both were too long. I reported to one of the check-out desks to ask if they had any more. The helpful young lady put out an SOS on the tannoy asking someone from hardware to come and assist me.

Now there’s a word to conjure with. Tannoy.

Tannoy is a Scottish -based loud speaker and public address system manufacturing company. Never having any idea who has installed the particular system we are listening to, we always call such a facility ‘the tannoy’. Just as a vacuum cleaner is always a ‘hoover’ and a ball-point pen ‘a biro’. Even Google, the search engine that provided me with the information on Tannoy, is now a noun to be found in dictionaries.

Ah, yes. B & Q.

Clive soon appeared and rummaged, equally unsuccessfully, with me. He announced that they didn’t do them, and suggested Castles, ‘an old-fashioned ironmongers’. Jackie and I didn’t know where Castles was, but she had googled ironmongers the night before, and knew there was one in Lymington. So off we drove to Lymington, which, incidentally is in the opposite direction to Christchurch. There Jackie, having done her usually successful google walk didn’t quite get a turning right in the car, and moreover wasn’t sure of the name. We ended up at Crystals at the far end of the High Street. It wasn’t possible to park there, so Jackie continued on round the one-way system to Waitrose, where she went shopping whilst I back-tracked to the hardware shop. There a very helpful young woman directed me to Central Southern Security just past the railway station at the other end of the street. I knew this because we had passed it earlier. So off I went on foot the way we had come in the car.

Knights receiptAnother helpful individual, this time a man, hunted among his screws for something that might fit. He explained, as had the young woman earlier, that these screws normally came as a set with the knobs, and there wasn’t much call for them these days. Also they had an old kind of thread. He didn’t find anything suitable, but he did send me on to a real ironmongers called Knights, opposite the library. And there I struck lucky and bought four imperial screws at 20p each. The old thread must be an imperial measure.

Then I had to find my way back to Waitrose car park. I realised that I was probably now in a direct line to the car park and should not have to retrace my steps back to and along the High Street. I had exchanged greetings with a traffic warden earlier, and suddenly spotted him again. Now, who else but an ambulant traffic warden would know the quickest way there? Graveyard - family walkingGravestonesHe did, and directed me through a car park; along a couple of cuts, or back alleys; and across a cemetery, to Southampton Road where I would be ‘near enough there’. Miraculously, I followed the route and ended up at Waitrose just as Jackie was emerging with a loaded trolley. This was handy because I was beginning to think that a Modus in that forest of cars was like a needle in a haystack.

Jackie rather kicked herself for not remembering the ironmonger’s name.

Becky and Flo arrived early this evening and the four of us dined at Elephant Walk Indian restaurant in Highcliffe. A little more upmarket than others we have enjoyed, the food here was superb, but we had to wait for it. The service was friendly, but one had the feeling the two women on duty were rather overstretched.

 

I’ll ‘Ave The Fish

Buttercups

Fields of buttercups on the way through Minstead were rather less than successful in brightening up a very dull morning as I walked the Shave Wood loop.

Forest Minstead

For a few brief moments the woodland was provided with dappled sunlight which managed to penetrate both the clouds and the trees. Violas Perky violas, and unfurling cowslips and ferns penetrated the leaf layer of the forest floor. Apple blossom

Apple blossom (cropped)Was this apple blossom I saw?  If so, how did it come to be in the woods?  Had someone merely discarded a core?

Flora on fallen tree trunk

The bottom of a large fallen tree was almost obscured by the flora covering it, in a clear example of the dead trees’ contributions to the ecosystem.

This evening Jackie drove us to Sopley where we dined at The Woolpack.  The lay-byes on this now clear evening on the stretch of the A31 between Castle Malwood and Ringwood were largely occupied by huge container lorries, their drivers no doubt snug in their hotel rooms which are their cabs. They would have been preparing their evening meals, watching TV, reading, sleeping, or whatever took their fancy.

The piped music at The Woolpack, being session musicians’ performances of old favourites like ‘On the street where you live’, or ‘The last waltz’, accurately determined the client group.  That is, our contemporaries and even more senior citizens.  PansiesAn attractive hanging basket outside the window contained splendid pansies falling over themselves to peer in and people watch.  They were particularly fascinated by an elderly couple and their daughter and son-in-law.

While Dad went to get the drinks in, a prolonged and oft revisited debate took place about what Mother would have for her dinner.  The problem seemed to be that the elderly person’s desire for fish and chips was for some reason doubted, or maybe contrary to some dietary regime.  When the drinks arrived, Mother went to consult the specials board in the other bar.  ‘I’ll ‘ave the fish’, she repeated, iterated, and reiterated.  She had actually been determined on that before inspecting the other offerings.  Her daughter was equally determined she should have the steak.  Fish and chips it ultimately was.  This had the benefit of terminating the discussion.  Now, The Woolpack is famous for serving its fish and chips in newspaper.  I began to feel rather sorry for the woman who had chosen this delicacy, because, of course, it had to be stripped of its newspaper, and someone of at least my generation must have felt nostalgic for eating the traditional English takeaway in the correct wrapping, even if it was to be consumed in the restaurant.  I know I was when I last dined here and said, with no contradiction, ‘I’ll have the fish and chips’.

On this particular occasion I had steak pie followed by pear crumble, and drank Doom Bar.  Jackie enjoyed gammon steak with creme brûlée for afters, and drank Carlsberg.