In Our Daughter’s Handbag

Barton on SeaJust before lunch Ian drove Becky, Scooby, and me to Barton on Sea. As we walked along the cliff top, we watched storm clouds approaching from the North. Deciding to ignore them we walked down the slope towards the beach, got drenched, and retreated to the Beachcomber Cafe. The whole population of the seaside town seemed to have had the same idea. No seats were available. The meals looked very good, so as soon as the rain stopped we drove back home for a pizza we knew Jackie had defrosted.Cliff edge warning 1Cliff edge warning  2

It seems to me that the cliff here has become more unstable in the last year, and that there are more warning signs. To the right of the first picture, a long cleft is evident. I wondered how long it would be before the land fell away as it had a little further along.

This afternoon Barrie and Vicki came for a visit. Green Man bird feederVicki produced a very attractive and tasteful bird feeder in the form of The Green Man that she had made for us. Jackie and I enjoyed their usual entertaining conversation, which was interrupted by the repeated  sound of Becky’s mobile phone. HandbagIt soon became apparent that this was in our daughter’s handbag. She was outside, having gone to meet Ian who was walking Scooby. Soon afterwards Ian returned, having lost their dog in the maze of the maize field. Realising what the phone calls might have been, Becky dialled the number in her phone. Sure enough, Scooby had been found. The telephone number shown on his collar tag photographed on 11th was that of the old Mitcham landline. Fortunately, Becky’s mobile number was on the reverse side. She called the number that had been left on her phone by the woman who had found Scooby. He was at the bottom of Downton Lane. She went to collect her dog and all was well.

Barrie has photographed our golden conifer because he has a friend who he expects will be able to identify it. I hope soon to be able to enlighten those of my readers who have been waiting with bated breath for the information.Golden conifer branch

A branch from this tree is one of those Jackie and Flo cut for our granddaughter to turn into wands for sale at A Touch Of Magick  in Emsworth, which is the outlet that is stocking Flo’s jewellery.Copper beech branchWands The other twig is from the copper beech. Some of the wands are resting on our Alvin Betteridge dish.

You have to be either a sadist or a masochist to enjoy the highlights of the very short third day of the Oval Test Match between India and England, in which the visiting side simply rolled over, but Ian and I tortured ourselves with watching the highlights this evening. After this, we did the male thing and went to the Royal Oak pub for a drink whilst the ladies prepared a delicious roast lamb meal. We seem to have stayed out rather longer than expected because, in mid-conversation, Ian, looking out of the window, seemed rather discombobulated. I leant forward so I could see what he was seeing. There was Becky, in her slippers, hands on hips, looking for all the world, except for the lack of hair curlers, like Florrie, the wife of that famous working class hero, Andy Capp, silently indicating that we should get home immediately.

We did, of course, drink up and return to Old Post House where we enjoyed a wonderful meal followed by next door’s apple crumble and Jackie’s custard containing eggs and nutmeg. My readers know no-one lives next door. But there is a very enticing apple tree in the front garden. If we hadn’t raided it, the fruit would have gone to waste. Ian drank Pedro Jimenez Cimarosa 2013; Jackie and Becky Lambrusco; Flo Tropicana mixed tropical fruit juice; and I finished the bordeaux.

That’s One I Made Earlier

The Milford Conservation Volunteers have developed a Wildlife Garden Project. LeafletsGiles's gardenGiles's garden 2This morning, as we travelled to Studland Drive, couples were seen walking all over the village clutching brochures which gave them admission to 25 gardens in the small coastal town. One of these was the home of our old friend Giles Darvill, coordinator of the project. Giles himself has, in sixteen years, transformed a garden, except for a few extant mature trees, fully laid to lawn, into a haven for insects, birds and small animals. The local badger is not particularly welcome, as it eats hedgehogs. We were there to take the first 90 minute stint on the ‘door’. One of our tasks was the distribution of leaflets.
Giles and visitorsGiles and visitors 2Giles’s garden, not manicured enough to pass muster for the National Gardens Scheme, is nevertheless truly inspirational, and drew a steady stream of visitors.Long grass
Viper's buglossDead woodThe gardener has provided several useful notices, like that placed in front of the viper’s bugloss, a favourite of bees, giving informative ideas about installations to encourage various fauna.
Hibernating and nesting messDead wood provides hibernation and nesting facilities for insects, whilst heaps of branches provide something similar for other small creatures. Creepy crawlies and bees are at home in the long grass.
PondTranslucent blue damselflies flitted and hovered above the small pond bearing artefacts from our friend’s yachting activities. Other, smaller, containers of water are strategically placed around the delightful creation. One small pan contained two large pebbles. Pan of waterRealising that they would be for a particular purpose I asked Giles what this was. His answer was ‘mice’. These would be the field variety, such as the one I saw climbing and swaying on our poppies this morning.
Aesop’s crow had to work out how to bring the water in the pitcher to the level at which it could access it to drink. Giles’s mice have no need to scratch their heads for a solution.
Stone and wood installationCotoneaster stemBird feederThe garden also contains many examples of its owner’s penchant for creating sculptural effects from found stone and wood. He has, for example, simply planted a cotoneaster stem to make its meandering way skywards.
I have mentioned before that Old Post House is decorated with a number of pieces of Giles’s stained glass. So is his own home. When we admired a bird feeder featuring one, he said ‘I made that last night’.
Pony and trapBack home this afternoon, I walked down to the postbox and back, meeting a pony trotting up the hill drawing a trap and its occupants.
This evening we dined at The Royal Oak, our neighbours. I enjoyed roast pork followed by blueberry cheesecake and ice cream; Jackie’s choice was mushroom stroganoff with ice cream to follow. She drank Becks. Doom Bar was off, so I settled for Ringwood Best.

Fag Ends

Front garden cuttings heapBenjamin Renouf and Tony of Abre Electrical arrived on time this morning to fit a new fusebox, run a power cable to the kitchen from the upstairs circuit, and generally check over our supply. They were quiet, efficient, and wasted no time, although they were here all day. I would certainly use them again.
I spent the morning further clearing the front garden. This involved the usual uprooting and pulling out bramble and ivy, and heavy pruning of overgrown shrubs. By noon I had a large pile to be added to the vast, constantly growing heap at the far end of the garden.Derrick with cuttings heap 2
Before lunch I trudged down to the postbox and back. A trudge was all I could manage.
Great tit and robin on feederAfter lunch I took a break and watched the birds. The avian activity was fascinating. Some were prepared to share the feeding station with others. The robin and the great tit seemed unfazed by the other’s presence. Starling and young blackbirdA young blackbird, however, was most disgruntled at the invasion of its territory by a starling.Young blackbird on feeder After it had seen off the rival, it turned around and began to scoff.Blue titBlue tit on feederBlue tit on feeder 2
It was fascinating to follow a blue tit’s progression from the netting to the seeds.
Female blackbird on feederThe crow has desisted from trying to clamber onto the feeder. Other birds, like this female blackbird, a little larger that those others depicted, flap around somewhat, as they have trouble landing.
The strong sunlight revealed the inner nature of honesty:Honesty
and lit attractive patterns on the geranium palmatum, such that it was tempting to play around with the image:Geranium palmatum
or perhaps not:Geranium palmatum 2
One can’t really improve on nature.
Throughout the day, Jackie continued with her creative planting, weeding and watering. This involved the removal of some heavy stones with her Time Team trowel.
While we sat on the patio before dinner, Jackie mentioned how some visitors had ground their cigarette ends into her grass and patio paving whilst sitting in her garden. This took me back to one summer in the late 1980s in Newark, and to Lincolnshire N.S.P.C.C. I was facilitating some team-building days for this staff team in Lindum House. Before the ban on smoking in the workplace, I ensured that there was a plentiful supply of ash trays in the rooms being used. No-one smoked. Yet after each break period the trays were filled with dog ends. When I asked why this was, I was informed that the smokers had all enjoyed their cigarettes in the garden, but had brought the stumps inside so as not to spoil the garden.
After this chat, Jackie collected fish and chips from Ashleigh’s, and we ate them at home. I finished the Bordeaux with mine.

Dare To Dream

Chimney pot and bird feeder Deer and Rabbits were anathema to Jackie at Castle Malwood Lodge. We had to place a protective screen around her temporary garden there – the one we are gradually transporting from Walkford. She is, however, rather partial to crows, which is why one of ours, normally occupying the rooftop chimney pot, is giving her a problem. This huge creature has, daily, clambered all over the planter pot that stands in front of her bird feeders. The hungry bird sits on the petunias, which it has crushed, pondering how to avail itself of the breakfast positioned for smaller relatives. Each day it has attempted to settle its outsize talons around the slender arched summit of the feeder. Each day, until today, it has slipped and flown off unsatisfied. Despite the rain it managed to empty the tray of berry-flavoured suet pellets beneath. In an unsuccessful attempt to keep it off the petunias Jackie had placed some small wooden stakes among flowers. Today it sent the feeding station lop-sided.
Like all predatory scavengers, this creature flies off as soon as one of us appears at the window.
Before Jackie drove me to New Milton for a visit to Norman’s via Waterloo, I prepared figures and documentation for posting to Philip Friede, my excellent accountant. Philip Fried & Co., of Hatton Garden is to be highly recommended.
On the up train (actually all trains to London, even if from the North, are labelled ‘up’), I finished reading ‘Victoria’s Park’ by B.J.Haynes. This is a very entertaining novel. Haynes is a natural story-teller whose writing flows. Full of humour, the book is about the potential fulfilment of an impossible dream. The characterisation is credible and simply expressed, with an interesting slant on contemporary local politics, and more technical knowledge about landfill than I possess. Published by Matador at £6.99 in a paperback that is properly bound with good quality paper that will not turn brown in a hurry, this is a snip. (ISBN 978 184875-511)
On the Jubilee Line train from Waterloo to Finchley Road, beginning with a question about Cicero’s Orations which I was reading, I enjoyed a conversation with a young (by my standards) gentleman. We both changed onto the Metropolitan Line and continued our talk for two more stops. Tom, originally from Liberia, had spent twenty years in England, and was now working towards setting up a prefabricated housing project to improve conditions in his home country. He had, incidentally, met a young woman who read with the aid of the light on her mobile phone. How beneficial, he thought, it would be to provide people with no electricity with such a facility. He is an intelligent and sensitive man who had been reading ‘Dare to Dream’, and he certainly does. May his dream become a possibility.
Norman provided a lunch of peppered steak, roast potatoes, and vegetables followed by a red fruits pie and custard. We shared a bottle of Languedoc reserve 2012.
Clematises Star of India and Rouge CardinalJackie collected me as usual at New Milton and showed me what she had been doing in the garden. This was a lot of planting and weeding. Although they are slightly droopy at the moment she has trained two clematises up the vacant side of the new arch. They are ‘Star of India’ and ‘Rouge Cardinal’. Hydrangea macrophyllaShe has also bought and planted a Japanese hydrangea termed macrophylla.
The blackbird is incubating the eggs photographed yesterday.

The Bird Feeder

The squirrel has won the latest battle in the baffle wars.  What he managed to do this morning was to shin up the pole until level with the edge of the concave dome.  He now realises that climbing any further up the pole is counter-productive and anyway gives him a sore head.  Whilst clinging to the pole by his back legs he one-handedly grasped the baffle’s rim, then reached out and grabbed the bottom of the green suet ball holder with his other arm, using which he pulled himself onto the table.  A raging tigress shooed him away and chased him across the lawn.  She then raised the bottom of the suet feeder in an attempt to place it out of reach of this creature who is able change his shape and extend it like a Disney cartoon character. Great tits For simplicity this tale is being told as if there were only one bushy-tailed invader.  Our suspicions that there are two were confirmed later when there was a face-off on the lawn.  The jury is out on which has the brains.

Oblivious of the frustrating conflict for the rodents, the birds, such as the great tits, carry on regardless, and one unusual duck, surely out of its element, alighted in the dish as Jackie was preparing dinner.Potato bird

As the day began to brighten after a morning’s steady, heavy, rain, I walked the Bull Lane/Trusty Servant loop.  The more pampered relatives of the sturdy forest ponies, who are left to their own devices, throughout the long cold wet months of winter have, as my readers will know, been covered with warm jackets.  Although they neither read books nor inhabit tents, these more delicate creatures are given further protection in warmer weather in the form of fly sheets worn to repel winged pests.  Fly sheetsOn the fence surrounding a paddock in the village, a pair was hanging out to dry.

Heuchera etc

Sunshine and rain vied with each other for ascendancy throughout the afternoon.

Our great friend Don, having spent five and a half hours driving from Bungay, arrived this evening and shared our meal of roast pork smeared with mustard and topped off with roasted almonds accompanied by perfectly timed vegetables followed by bread and butter pudding.  Don and I drank Chateauneuf diu Pape with this, while Jackie had her Hoegaarden.  We talked about a lot, reminisced a lot, and drank a little more.  I’m past elaborating.

Jackie’s Post


“The only time I can hear birdsong is when I’m sitting on the loo”.

When Jackie, delivering this sentence yesterday to her sisters in Milford’s Polly’s Pantry, became aware that she had raised her voice – as she told me this morning – she had hoped other customers had not heard this taken out of context. Having been beset by building works on one side of our garden and hedge-cutting on the other, that,  opening statement was indeed true. This is because baby sparrows in the nest in our extractor fan are currently clamouring for the food parents are bringing home. Even while the fan is operating, a clunk, as the meals on wings arrive, is followed by intense tweets that would put Mr Trump to shame. Two adults proceed in non-stop convoy throughout the day.

When we first arrived here four years ago the front garden trellis bore quite weedy specimens of pink and red rambling roses, clematises and honeysuckle. Heavy pruning and nurturing has resulted in a splendid floral wall. The roses, in particular, shelter the entrance to the nest from view.

As always, the birds do not fly straight to the nest, but perch somewhere nearby to recce the surroundings before diving in. Our foraging parents choose first to alight on the trellis foliage. This morning, Jackie watched the proceedings through the hall window and photographed the birds transporting wriggling beakfuls of juicy breakfast.

Now, I may have put all this together and added my twopenn’orth, but this is quite clearly Jackie’s post.

This evening we dined on beef burgers, onions, carrots, cabbage, and mashed potato with tasty gravy.


‘I Can’t Put A Ticket On That’

BlackbirdBlackbirds have begun to visit the bird feeder without flying off at the first sign of a human.  Until comparatively recently they would stand on the bay hedge beneath the goodies, patiently waiting for spillage from the other birds.  Now they take their own place at the table.

Jackie's garden

Leaving Jackie’s corner garden behind, we drove to The Firs for a weeding session.

There was a star shaped crack in the centre of the windscreen, fortunately well clear of the MOT failure position.  This had been inflicted last week by a stone thrown up by an overtaking vehicle on the motorway.  It needed repairing, so we stopped at Sainsbury’s superstore in Hedge End, where Screen-Care UK, in the form of Ryan, did an excellent. efficient, and friendly, job.  Screen-Care UKWatching the young man perform with a kind of injection needle, it occurred to me that his arms were quite accustomed to needles.


Weeding required in scented bedForget-me-nots flourished throughout The Firs garden, and the amount of weeding required was daunting, especially in last year’s new beds, now sprouting rich new grass.  The three of us worked on the beds and made some impact.

Weeded bedThe fledgeling robin we had seen last year was now an adult, and certainly appreciated the work on the scented bed. Robin This little bird was enjoying a few worms and seemed to be using grass to clean his teeth.

Geoff with eucalyptus crossI described the moving of the eucalyptus on 13th September last year; and the first useful purpose found for it on 5th of this month.  Elizabeth’s creative friend Geoff has been commissioned to make a cross with some more of this dead tree.  He showed us the result, which has a pleasing flowing shape.  He still has some of the wood.  Watch this space for any further artefacts.

Gardening over for the day, we repaired to Eastern Nights for the usual excellent meal; Cobra, and Tiger beer.  The conversation turned to classic cars Dad had owned, a Singer Hunter and a Daimler.  This led me to relate a story about Rob and his Jaguar 240 g which had been beautifully restored with a wonderful dark green paint job.  On one of the family visits to Newark, possibly twenty years ago, I found myself with my then brother-in-law in a shop in the town with the ‘marvellous toy ‘ parked outside  where it shouldn’t have been.  We emerged into the daylight to see a traffic policeman, pad in hand, scratching his head in bewilderment.  As Rob unlocked the vehicle, the man, full of wonder, asked ‘Is this yours?’.  When the owner replied in the affirmative, the constable said, with awe, ‘Well, get it out of here.  I can’t put a ticket on that!’.

The £2.00 Pint

Yesterday I received John Green’s package of comments on what is likely to be my last Listener Crossword.  They were largely positive and some complimentary.  John is the very thorough checker of the entries for this, the pinnacle of crosswords.  Having performed this free service for many years, John provides statistics, both personal and general, of such as numbers of entries, successful and otherwise.  He describes common and individual errors, and sends his handwritten extracts from solvers’ letters to the setters.  These days I am more inclined to post a blog than set a crossword.Nuthatch & marsh or willow tits

As I watched the birds this morning, wagtails trotted across the lawns; alongside the feeder station a blackbird, preferring fresh kill, dragged an unresisting worm from the sward; and a nuthatch elbowed a couple of willow tits off its chosen breakfast dish.  The two smaller birds perched on the wrought iron holders, awaiting their second sitting.  A large black corvine creature strutted about for a bit, then, in cumbersome flight, lumbered, airborne, into the forest trees.

The Shave Wood loop was today’s walk.Anne's house  Anne’s house on the way through Minstead which I imagine has for many years been in desperate need of refurbishment, is now looking quite trim.

CelandinesAlthough absent from the roads through the forest itself, the verges of those leading to it are rich in daises, and, seeming to have been blown from the glowing gorse bushes nearby, celandines and dandelions.Metamorphosing tree  Yet another fallen tree is metamorphosing into a primeval creature.

I had a pleasant conversation with a young woman riding a horse along the verge passing Hazel Hill car park.  Seeing someone emerge from the only vehicle parked there and walk into the forest, I followed, thinking I might learn a footpath skirting London Minstead.  It was a small family who seemed to be setting up camp.  I rather hoped the pile of wood being collected was not for building a fire.

As I passed Hazel Hill Farm a cacophony of cackling and clattering emanated from the hen coop.  Wondering what had caused it I peered over the fence just in time to witness a guilty looking crow winging off.

Ponies - Seamans Corner

Back at Seamans Corner ponies were gathered grazing on the first fresh green grass they can have tasted for months.

Before our evening meal Jackie and I visited the Trusty for one drink each.  A pint of Doom Bar (£3.95) and a small bottle of Peroni (£3.50) cost £7.45.  Yes, £7.45 for two drinks.  We then reminisced over the time, probably in the 1980s, when we began to wonder how long it would be before you didn’t get any change out of £2.00 for a pint of beer; and, not much later, when would £5.00 be inadequate for a round of two drinks?  Unless you happen to live near a Wetherspoons the £2.00 pint is long gone.  How can that chain do it?

On our return, to accompany Jackie’s succulent roast pork dinner, she drank Hoegaarden and I had Carta Rosa gran reserva 2005.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Long-tailed titBirds on Jackie’s feeder are becoming braver.  Today we were able to watch, through the kitchen window, a blackbird, a robin, and a long-tailed tit.  It would probably be a good idea to clean the guano off the window before I take another photograph.

I had less luck with  a woodpecker I heard at its work whilst I was walking the Shave Wood loop.  When I backtracked to seek out this avian chippy its pecking ceased and I was unable to discern its whereabouts.  I suspect it is of the lesser spotted variety.

Pony and trapIn London Minstead a disinterested pony hitched to a trap found the opportunity to sample the hedgerow more fascinating than me.  Its owner was content to watch the birdie and smile.  She said many  other similar photographs had been taken.

Derrick late 1970sI believe photograph number 9 in the ‘through the ages’ series was taken in the late 1970s by Jessica in Gerard Street, Soho, probably during the Chinese New Year celebrations.  We always attended these colourful occasions which took place a stone’s throw from our flat.  I seem to have been having some problem with my camera.  Whatever it was, it cannot have been as disastrous as the freezing of the shutter on my Olympus.  That fault developed some ten or a dozen years later when I was the ‘official’ photographer at Jessica’s cousin Anthony and Geraldine’s wedding.  When asked to perform this role for friends and family I am always afraid something will go wrong and they will have no record of their great day.  The only time I ever did totally fail, on account of not loading the film properly, I was saved by my father-in-law Don Rivett who had shadowed me.  I am grateful to Helen for recently being  kind enough to remind me of this effort at her own wedding to Bill forty-odd years ago.

For Anthony and Geraldine’s wedding I had done my utmost to bring along a properly loaded piece of equipment in full working order.  This involved numerous visits to a Newark camera shop whose owner was meant to be repairing my old Olympus; a final explosion of my own blue touch paper; a borrowed Pentax; and a brand new Canon belonging to the groom.  The shutter had stuck rigidly about three or four months earlier.  Every time I called in for the camera I was treated to a waffle.  And I don’t even like them.  The shop owner knew exactly when, why, and where I needed to be fully operational.  It is not often, after all, I imagine, even a professional has a commission in Rugby school.  One would have thought that should have carried some clout.

I was finally promised faithfully that I would have the camera on the morning of the wedding.  Off I trotted, in my topper and morning suit, round the corner to the repair shop. No repair.  That was when the sparks flew.  ‘Well, you will just have to lend me one’, said I with my best calm, firm, yet menacing tone.  A Pentax was promptly produced.  I had a practice run with it in the garden, and all seemed well.

You have perhaps realised by now that this was in fact a poorly Pentax.  I discovered that when having a further testing session in the hall at the school.  It didn’t even have the decency to suffer from a different complaint.  Yes, the shutter jammed.

Fortunately Anthony was on hand with his untried model.  As he thrust it into my grasp I had a moment of panic.  It looked digital.  Anyway when I half-pressed the shutter with my own trembling digit, the Canon did things, but only took a picture when the button was fully depressed.

With Geraldine and her father emerging from a wedding limousine, there was no time to practice.  I just had to click into action.  The result was a first photo of the bride and her Dad out of focus and wonky; one walking down the aisle towards the eagerly waiting groom, out of focus but reasonably upright;  and thereafter a set of probably the best wedding photos I have ever taken.  I do hope Mr. Schnapps forgave me for the first two shots of his momentous occasion.

This evening we dined on chicken jalfrezi with peas pilou rice and Cobra beer.