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

Woodpecker and baby blackbirdPossibly because I don’t have the required patience to sit motionless for hours awaiting their arrival, I cannot get near the woodpeckers that feed from Jackie’s dish.  She, however, has been studying them for a couple of weeks from her kitchen hide, ‘through a glass [clearly]’. Woodpecker, siskin and baby blackbird This morning, determined, she sat with the camera and was rewarded, first with the sight of one of the woodpeckers shooing off a baby blackbird, tits and a siskin; secondly of the siskin sneaking up on the other side of the feeder out of eyeshot of the bully;Woodpecker and thirdly of the rival woodpecker sending the first one packing.  The young blackbird, not quite sure what to do when it does make it to the dish, wanders around on the box hedge and the grass, picking up scraps.

Squrrel approachingThe squirrel described on 3rd of this month continues regularly to strive to reach the dish. Squirrel under pots Bolder in his approach, he crawls under the raised pots to climb the hedge towards his goal, then follows the procedure outlined in that post, except that he now attempts to break his fall by clutching at the hedge during his unplanned descent.  This is less than successful.  He clutches at the edge, scrabbles a bit, then, legs frantically gyrating, flops to the ground, and settles for picking up the birds’ droppings. Squirrel leaving When sufficiently recovered, he is off across the lawn like a bat out of Hell. Squirrel making for birchMaybe, like Buster Keaton, he does all his own stunts.  The silent movie star was a more proficient acrobat.

Reluctantly leaving this scenario we made a shopping trip to Ringwood.


After lunch we were off to The Firs for a gardening session.  There was much weeding and watering to be done, but what took us there today was the sweet peas.  Last year’s were so successful that Elizabeth decided to buy some more for this year.  She found a specialist supplier who stocked no end of varieties and asked Jackie to suggest some she liked.  She chose four.  The seeds come in packets of ten.  Sweet peas in frameSome contained eleven.  Forty to forty four seemed a good round number.  My sister is one of those rare beings who gained pure maths and applied maths at A level GCE.  Even I know that if you buy seventeen different packets of seeds you will receive one hundred and seventy potential plants.  With a minimal number of extras that must round up to at least one hundred and eighty, a top score with three darts.  Elizabeth had not just gone over the top, she had achieved a triple top.

It took Jackie the best part of two days to plant the seeds in trays, and today was the day to begin planting them out.  The method chosen is to build a wigwam frame out of the carefully prepared bamboo shoots dug out of what is now the hot bed two years ago, and place three or four plants within each.  The job is not yet finished.  At that rate we will need a complete Native American village.Clematis Niobe Wisteria and chives Before she could even start on this task there was much other planting and watering to be carried out.

My task was weeding the stepping stone bed that had previously been an overgrown shrubbery.

Derrick 'lying down on the job'Unbeknown to me, she caught me ‘lying down on the job’.

Stepping stone bedThe whole garden is benefiting from the work we have put in.  Particularly pleasing is the large, old, wisteria on the pergola, which last year didn’t do much at all.  Jackie is excited at the progress of the clematis Niobe; and the numerous heuchera added to the existing ones last year are particularly enjoying the conditions. Huchera and pansiesPurple and blue floral arraangement Elizabeth likes blending colours, such as in a rather pleasing purple and blue arrangement.

Jackie may have been building tepee supports for the sweet peas, but I think it is evident that today’s is her post.

This evening we dined with Elizabeth at Eastern Nights in Thornhill, where we enjoyed the usual excellent meals, Cobra and Bangla beer.

‘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!’.