The Path To Deadman Hill

The day before yesterday I finished reading

being the final novel in the trilogy of the Larkin family, first featured in “Freak Of Fate” in which I described the first book; how I came by it; and the amazing coincidence of the address on the flyleaf, also borne by this Book Club edition published by Michael Joseph in 1960.

In his now familiar rollicking style the author continues to relate the cheerfully energetic romp through life of Pop Larkin, his friends and family. I have now realised that one of the chief pleasures of these stories is the ease with which Bates weaves beautiful bucolic descriptions into his innocently scandalous narrative. For the Larkins, life really is “perfickly” beautiful. Maybe, only 15 years after the ending of the Second World War, that is what the world needed.

This morning we visited Bill and Helen to exchange birthday presents.

We diverted to Abbotswell, near Frogham, on our way home, then decided to lunch at The Fighting Cocks at Godshill.

In the deeply pockmarked gravelled car park at the top of Abbotswell hill a couple of riders were persuading two splendid, reluctant, black horses into their trailered transport which, with their weight, seemed certain to increase the potholes.

I took a short walk among the undulating woodlands overlooking the sloping landscape below.

As always in such terrain it was necessary to tread gingerly over tree roots.

Bees swarmed among wild blackberry blossoms.

Cattle and ponies congregated in the valley below.

A lone cyclist sped along a footpath

and re-emerged on the path to Deadman Hill on the other side of Roger Penny Way. To think that just four years ago I would take that walk without thinking about it.

My lunch at the pub consisted of steak and ale pie, chips, and peas; Jackie’s was mushroom stroganoff with which she drank Hop House lager. My drink was Ringwood’s Best.

Long haired miniature ponies groped their way across the greens beside Cadnam Lane where

an enterprising hairdresser had given a bug-eyed tree stump an impressive Mohican.

The Head Gardener has a little friend in the form of a juvenile robin that follows her around during the day and has taken to joining us on the patio for a drink in the evening. Jackie, on this occasion, drank Hoegaarden, I drank sparkling water, and Robin drank water from a flower pot saucer.

After this, Jackie and I dined on pepperoni pizza and salad; Robin probably finished off what was clinging to his beak.

The East End Arms

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. REPEAT IF REQUIRED.

Today was still humid, but cooler and overcast. We spent the morning dead-heading, weeding, cutting back shrubs and other plants, generally tidying up, and adding to the compost heap and orange bags for the dump.

IKEA Wardrobe bitsThis afternoon two trips to the dump were required to dispose of the contents of two orange bags and a collection of bits of IKEA wardrobes. This laminate-clad chipboard has served many a useful purpose in the three years we have occupied our Downton home. Much of it was now surplus to requirements and was broken into manageable pieces for recycling. Once more the trusty Modus was enlisted into transport service.

Afterwards we visited Everton Garden Centre to buy a birthday present, then on the WG Hibbs at New Milton to order stone, sand, and cement for Aaron to lay a base for the greenhouse.

We then drove on to Norley Wood where we hoped to find water lilies. There were none, but Jackie spotted

Straw horse on rooftop

one straw horse on top of a thatched roof,

Horses weather vane

and two metal ones on a weather vane decorating ridge tiles.

We back-tracked to The East End Arms for a cool drink of Amstel. The inn had a very warm and friendly atmosphere and unusually pleasant toilets for a hostelry.

Bee on blackberry blossom

Whilst waiting five minutes for opening time I watched bees swarming over blackberry blossom.

It is 25 years since the popular band Dire Straits finished performing together. The locals in this bar were keen to inform us that their pub was owned by John Illsley, that group’s bass player and vocalist. John is still performing with his own band.

This evening we dined on roast lamb, roast potatoes, sage and onion stuffing, cauliflower, carrots, and green beans. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Doom Bar.

Shade

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. REPEAT IF REQUIRED.

In order to use the services of the Post Office whilst Jackie was visiting the Birchfield Dental Practice, this morning I parcelled up some items the Australian branch of the family had left behind; wrote a cheque for the water bill in Sigoules; and packed up the various documents required for my tax return. I then posted everything.

Afterwards, Jackie took us on a drive through the forest.

Ponies 1

The unfortunate ponies struggled to find relief from the overhead sun, and clustered where they could under trees offering inadequate cover.

Tormented by flies, one of this group scratched against the tree trunks;

the others just bore their discomfort in silence. The beastly insects crawled over these wretched creatures’ eyes, noses, and mouths.

Lane

We could at least benefit from the car’s air conditioning, and choose to venture into shady lanes, three of which are featured for Jill’s benefit.

The domesticated horses enjoyed better shade,

even when grazing.

Ponies 3

Outside the shop at Pilley one string of ponies queued for the phone box

Pony 2

While others kept down the grass in front of the houses. This smaller animal, despite its leopard skin coat, was bullied by one of the larger ones when it ventured away from the gate.

Foal following mother

Foals are becoming big enough for their mothers to leave them to their own devices. One white mare attempted to escape the attentions of her little one, who was having none of it, and, on spindly legs, quickly trotted after her.

Foals

The little ones are still learning to tolerate flies, and twitch about in vain.

Foal 1

The lonely male just went to sleep.

Foal and mare 1

Sadly, juvenile tails are no use as fly whisks,

Foal and mare 2

so our little limpet clung to Mum,

Foal and mare 3

keeping within the sweep of hers.

Beach

We visited Tanners Lane on our way home. Despite the low tide, the appearance of water, against the backcloth of the Isle of Wight, gave the illusion of coolness.

Women and chidren on beach 1Women and children on beachWomen and children on beach 3Women and children on beach 4

Two women and children searching among the shallows, skirted

Boat on low tide beach

a rowing boat

Mooring chain

 chained to the stony shore.

House

This is the last house on the lane.

We had seen dog roses in the hedgerows at Boldre;

Small Heath butterflies

Those on Tanners Lane mingled with blackberry blossom among which Small Heath butterflies flitted. There are two in this picture.

Our evening meal consisted of cold meats, hard-boiled egg, salad, and cheeses.

Now we are going to drink beer on the patio.

 

 

 

Parents Must Allow Children To Be Adventurous

On another dull, overcast, morning, Jackie drove to a follow-up appointment with her knee surgeon whilst I stayed at home for a visit from Paul, the Double Glazing Doctor, who arrived on time and gave the promised, reasonable, estimate later on. The work will be done next Wednesday when the new television is to be installed.

I amused myself by sorting and scanning a few more of the photographic prints returned by Elizabeth.

In 1986 Jessica, Sam, Louisa, and I spent some time house sitting for the Drapers in Meldreth, and in the process, enjoying a holiday.

Sam 1986

This shot of Sam shows that a gentle, kind, boy nevertheless has a penchant for playing soldiers. Give him a cricket bat and his grandfather’s military cap and what does he do with the bat? My son is living proof that children who play in this way are not necessarily destined to grow up with killer instincts.

Joseph & Louisa 1986

Later that year, on an outing with Elizabeth, Rob, Adam, and Danni, Louisa enjoys a ride on the back of my brother, her uncle Joseph.

Louisa 5.89 001Louisa 5.89 002

Louisa, of course, will have a go at anything. Here she is rolling around in a galvanised tub on the lawn at Lindum House in May 1989. I know it has a jagged hole and she has bare feet, but she was very careful, and parents must allow children to be adventurous.  Had Jessica and I  been more timorous ourselves would this little girl have grown up to complete the Three Peaks Challenge? I know I couldn’t have done it, even when fit.

This much brighter afternoon, I heaved the rest of the rocks out of the recovered bed, laid a few more stepping stones, and built up borders with them.

Later I took a stroll down to Roger’s farm gate and back.

Grasses veiling dahlia

A freshly blooming dahlia in The Shady Bed is veiled by small ornamental grasses,

Eryngium

and alongside The Brick Path eryngium is nicely framed by the red Japanese maple.

Garden gate

On Downton Lane the secret garden gate looked particularly inviting,

Blackberry blossom

and blackberry blossom is developing into as yet green fruit.

This last quartet of un-enhanced photographs were shot on the setting that replicates film.

This evening Jackie produced her classic sausage casserole which we enjoyed with crisp carrots, cabbage, and new potatoes. She drank her customary Hoegaarden whilst I drank Parra Alta malbec 2014.

Come Along With Me

A north wind gusting at 25+ m.p.h. took the heat out of a gloriously sunny morning.Starling flurry Starling flurry and poppy Early on there was a distinct, or should I say, indistinct, flurry of activity around the bird table, particularly as the parent starlings were feeding themselves for a change. These shots were taken through the window because I didn’t want to startle them. Ring-necked dove and starling

The ring-necked dove had to wait its turn,

Ring-necked dove and poppy

and spent some time admiring the poppy.

Blackbird, poppy, frog

A blackbird preferred to contemplate the possibility of a frog for breakfast.

Now, it is all very well for me to introduce you to close-ups of our many garden plants, such as

Rhododendron

this newly flowering rhododendron,

Iris

or this delicate iris

but that does not give much go an idea of what it is like to amble along our reclaimed paths. So, come along with me, down

Head gardener's path

The Head Gardener’s Path, which did not exist last year;

Shady path

The Shady Path, so named because it was then completely devoid of sunshine,

Five ways chimney pot

and which, round the bend, leads to the chimney pot at Fiveways, where five paths merge.

Side path

This side path links The Shady Path with

Pergola path

The Pergola Path.

Agriframes arch path

The other main thoroughfare is the Agriframes Arch Path.

Anyone who followed last year’s labours will know that there are more routes in the tour, which will be resumed in a day or two. The numerous solar lights in evidence illuminate a veritable fairyland at night.

After this I took a short walk up Hordle Lane where

Blackberry blossom

blackberry blossom blooms,

Buttercups and ragged robin

and buttercups ramble among ragged robins.

We had two brief shopping trips, either side of ‘Bargain Hunt’. The first was to the pharmacy in Milford to collect a prescription; the second to Ferndene Farm Shop for three bags of compost and, of course, while we were there, half a dozen verbena plants. I am assured that we needed them, and who am I to argue?

This evening’s dinner comprised a pork rib rack marinaded in barbecue sauce; roasted peppers and onions, boiled rice, and green beans.(I refuse to use the abbreviated abomination BBQ, but you can tell it is getting to me when you know I almost typed barbeque). I drank more of the cabernet sauvignon, and Jackie drank Hoegaarden.

A Re-opening

Blackberry blossomCherry blossomThis was a warm sunlit day. Not only were the last of the summer blackberries ripening in Downton Lane, but  fresh blossom was turning to fruit, and a Japanese kaiga painter had reproduced a pattern of pink cherry against the clear blue sky over Shorefield.Shadows of five-barred gateIsle of Wight, The Needles, lighthouse

Long shadows were cast, and the Isle of Wight, The Needles, and their lighthouse stood sharply alongside The silver Solent.

A Re-opening

I am optimistic about the re-opening of our neighbouring pub, The Royal Oak. The new tenants, Debbie and Carl Millward, are experienced publicans who should be able to resuscitate the necessary atmosphere of a country hostelry. This evening they opened for drinks. Food should be available in a day or two, but  this evening what was available was generous bar nibbles, so we all had an enjoyable couple of drinks and convivial conversation with the publicans and Debbie’s parents Jill and Ken. There was a good attendance of local people. .After this Jackie collected takeaway fish and chips from Old Milton and we enjoyed them at home with mushy peas and pickled onions.

The Monk

One of the benefits of our mild Autumn has been that non-hardy plants, like this fuchsia Fuchsia quasarQuasar, are still out in the garden. Normally a delicate pink and lilac on a white ground, this picture was my selection for the third day of my Black and White Flower photograph submissions.

Edward Sherred, landscaper, called this morning with his wife. Every couple of years he had pruned the tops of the variegated hollies in the front garden. Our predecessors had the benefit of free tree surgery and his wife used the branches to make Christmas wreaths. Having enjoyed a similar arrangement at Lindum House I was happy for us to continue the process. He did a good job.

Stinging nettles and sticky williesBlackberry blossomDandelionIt was a dank day for my Hordle Cliff top walk this morning. Stinging nettles and sticky willies were sprouting again in the hedgerows. Blackberries had been conned into producing more blossom, and a brave little dandelion had forced its way up through a driveway’s gravel.Hordle Cliff beach

Birds were silently snuggled up in their nests, and The Needles were shrouded in mist. I met no other creature in an hour’s walk.

‘The Castle of Otranto’ is hailed as the first gothic novel, and Matthew Lewis’s ‘The Monk’ as the ultimate one. This work, which I finished reading today, has all the ingredients. Set in Madrid at the time of the Inquisition, we have a dubious monastery and a doomed convent; we have wild weather and benighted forests; we have superstition and sorcery; we have blind belief and blasphemy; we have saintly heroes and sinful religious; we have cunning and deception; we have a sadistic prioress and a seduced and seducing prior; we have terror and torture; we have ghosts, ghastly dungeons, and damp sepulchral crypts strewn with unburied bodies; and we have rape and murder most foul.

Hammer (‘The House of Horror’) Films would have relished it, but it was a French-Spanish production directed by Dominic Moll that presented the adaptation released in 2011.

It hard to believe that Lewis was barely twenty when he completed this fast-moving and insightful novel that has intrigued readers ever since 1796. My Folio Society edition benefits from an introduction by Devendra P. Varma and is embellished by the wood The Monk Illustrationengravings of George Tute, who must have thought it was Christmas when asked to illustrate a book packed with such dramatic incident. He is certainly up to the task.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delightful chicken jalfrezi (recipe) and savoury rice (recipe). I finished the chianti.