The Persistent Suitor

This morning Jackie drove me to New Hall Hospital and back for follow-up visits to surgeon Mr Ivar Kask and to physiotherapist Vanessa. Both were happy with progress and neither needs to see me again.

We followed an unnamed narrow winding lane from Bodenham, just behind the hospital, to Charlton-All-Saints. Hoping we would not meet another vehicle along the way we first encountered a young woman so engrossed in her mobile phone that she was in danger of walking straight into us.

Ponies, as usual, grazed or lazed on and around the green at Hale,

where a group of donkeys presented a tableau before a thatched cottage. A solitary creature to the left of these pictures stepped across the grass leaving the two dozing on the right

to the attentions of this character who had been lurking out of shot. He made his way steadily towards the other two,

intent on making further acquaintance.

His sweet-faced intended simply walked away from beneath him as he pursued his suit. He returned in persuasive mood. She didn’t seem to mind his nuzzling up,

but drew the line at a further approach from the rear.

He had to settle for a consoling scratch.

Hatchett Lodge, being the 19th century lodge to Hale Park, is a Grade 2 listed building.

The village stands on land high enough to offer views of distant landscapes; bluebells now embellish banks; the bole of a gnarled oak tree commands attention.

Ponies and cattle co-exist happily on the green at Woodgreen, from where,

beyond an aged oak, one of its limbs propped by a makeshift chock, can be seen Braemore House, standing since the time of Queen Elizabeth I.

We lunched at The Green Dragon, Brook. My egg was not broken when it was delivered, but I had pierced it with the obligatory chip before deciding to record it for posterity. My meat was gammon. Jackie very much enjoyed her battered haloumi with mushy peas and French fries, which, of course demanded a dousing in the spicy dip. Jackie drank a flat white coffee while I drank Wadsworth’s 6X.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s substantial vegetable soup and fresh crusty bread with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Juicy Assemblage.

Apple Or Ice Cream?

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Knowing that today would be the hottest May bank holiday on record prompted a trip to Lyndhurst for a spell of people watching.

On our way, Jackie parked opposite The White Hart in Milford Road on the outskirts of Lymington so that I could walk back to the roundabout and photograph the bluebells and other wild flowers on the banked verges. As I returned to the car along the footpath, a couple of cyclists approaching me from behind asked me to “excuse” them. I was unable to move out of the way, even if I had been so inclined. They were forced to pop up onto the grass, but thanked me anyway.

Eventually Lyndhurst High Street and its traffic became so crowded that it was impossible to focus on anything from my perch on one of the benches beside the pillar boxes, so we went home.

The High Street is approached down the hill beside the parish church of St Michael and All Angels. The Antiques Centre stands next to Down to the Wood where Romsey Road forms a T junction. On this corner people tend to stand to make up their minds which way to go next.

Often, like this couple pausing at Paws in the Forest, they will wander up the hill and return with an ice cream purchased at

the outlet advertising its wares with its outsize cone. One little girl chose an ice cream to match her blue sandals.

Cornets were definitely the treat of choice, although one gentleman preferred an apple.

Judging by the number of mobile homes, some carrying bicycles, in the perpetual stream of traffic, many travellers were making their way back to London or to Southampton.

Woman with mobile phone

At least one mobile phone was in evidence.

Man carrying toddler

One gentleman was in need of liquid fuel as he carried his toddler.

Family groups

and others, walked aided or unaided, with or without dogs, occasionally pushing bikes, thronged the pavement, crossing the road when there was a gap in the traffic.

This afternoon, I joined Jackie for her gardening break in the Westbrook Arbour, facing the Phantom Path. These views met our eyes.

With this evening’s meal of pepperoni pizza and plentiful salad, I finished the pinot noir since I had preserved some from our drinks on the patio. Jackie had consumed all her Hoegaarden.

 

 

The Spanish Invasion


Strong winds and heavy rain rampaged through the morning, keeping me occupied with administration and ironing, while Jackie did the shopping.

Just two of the administrative events are worthy of note. It is rather more complicated than I would have thought to close a French bank account which is in credit with no unpaid cheques outstanding. This has been exacerbated by what turned out to be a standard letter contradicting what I had been advised on the telephone. Phone calls and letters have been involved. I was advised to ignore the latest letter. I should be receiving a statement and a transfer of funds soon. We’ll see.

A further telephone call related to the setting up of a funeral plan. Well, you never know.

Soon after lunch the rain ceased and an assertive sun shouldered the dismal clouds aside, sending us off in search of bluebells.

Opposite the shadowy woodland of Shirley Holms

Doves on roof

Jackie spotted a pair of white doves on a farmhouse roof.

Bluebells and hellebores

In 1588 the Spanish Armada failed in their attempt to conquer England. A peaceful invasion is, however under way in the form of their national bluebells. These in our garden are bigger, stronger, and lighter in colour than

the English ones that still line the hedgerows and stock the woodlands of Boldre and other parts of the forest.

Muddy tracks have been left by the recent rain, but it is now warm enough for horses in fields to discard their rugs.

As we drove through East End the leader of a trio of three cows fixed our Modus with a stare and bellowed instructions to get out of the way.

An egret occupied the beach at Tanners Lane against the backdrop of rape fields on the Isle of Wight.

This evening we dined at The Royal Oak. Jackie enjoyed an excellent beef burger in sourdough bread with French fries and salad. My equally good meal was superbly cooked haddock, chips and peas. My heap of chunky chips with skins was extremely daunting and Jackie couldn’t finish her fries. She drank Amstell and I drank Malbec.

 

The Fifth Child

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A cooler temperature and continuous overcast skies returned today. This gave me a more satisfactory light for photographing pale flowers which I always find difficult in sunshine.

Our later daffodils tend to be more white than yellow;

defying all attempts at eradication white alliums thrust their way through the soil throughout the garden, iberis thrives on the edge of the New Bed, and;

similarly hued tulips, daffodils, and primulas contrast with brighter reds and yellows;

tulips continue fully to open;

as does prunus Amanogawa at the front of the house.

Blue flowers include the first bluebells and prolific forget-me-nots.

I didn’t like Doris Lessing’s ‘The Fifth Child’. But then perhaps I wasn’t meant to. Even the author stated that she hated writing it. Nevertheless this most unpleasant child demanded attention from start to finish, at which I arrived this afternoon. It is a short modern horror story, details of which I will, as usual, refrain from revealing. Save to say that it involves a nightmare birth and terrifying childhood that puts unbearable strain on a happy family. The essence of its success must be that it comes so close to credible and touches the deepest fears of any parent.

The Fifth Child

Published by Jonathan Cape in 1988, the selection of Mervyn Peake’s ‘Boy Reclining’ as the jacket cover is a masterstroke. The distant, unfocussed, eye in the portrait conjures up our current character and there are echos of the artist’s ‘Gormenghast’ Gothic fantasy series of novels in Ms Lessing’s work. It also reminded me of a cover I once drew for the Queens Park Family Service annual report.

This evening it was warm enough for us to have drinks on the patio before Jackie drove off to Hordle Chinese Take Away to collect our evening meal. While she was out we experienced a heavy hailstorm. This developed into a spectacular electric storm. I drank more of the Fleurie with my dinner.

 

Petrified By Ponies

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This afternoon we visited Otter Nurseries in order to buy rambling roses to supplement the planting Jackie carried out this morning.

Jackie in discussion ablout companulas

The Head Gardener was soon into a discussion about campanulas with a another customer seeking information.

I wandered around the plentiful displays while Jackie selected Perennial Blush and Super Elfin ramblers. A bee flitted from lavender to lavender.

Walkers on road

As we parked for me to investigate the Heywood Mill stream, a family group wandered, chatting, down the road.

Stream

The stream itself was unhindered one side of the road bridge,

and bore the reflections of a fallen tree on the other.

Deer

As we drove away, I spotted a deer. This necessitated by driver screeching to a halt and , heart in mouth, reversing back along the narrow, winding, lane until I could poke my lens into the hedgerow. The creature did not hang around.

English bluebells lined the verges and

Bluebells in wood 1

carpeted woodlands.

Ponies - one pregnant

Tempted by the sight of two white ponies, one of which was very pregnant, we drove down an even narrower lane.

Horse and rider

Further on we encountered a horse and rider, requiring us to stop for them to edge on by.

Next came the penned-in horned sheep. One of these woolly animals was particularly inquisitive.

Ponies on road

There were so many ponies on the road near Pilley, that a young driver was unable to move on. Jackie had to drive round her. She apologies, saying that she was petrified by the ponies. It was only when the horses thinned out a bit that she was able to get back into gear.

One of this group was a foal, still very wobbly on its legs.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s sublime cottage pie, served with carrots and Brussels sprouts. I finished the Vacqueyras. Jackie didn’t imbibe further as she had drunk her Hoegaarden on the patio beforehand.

Back Drive Progress

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We spent the morning of another dull, overcast, day continuing the general tidying of the garden.

Many new aquilegias are fully or partially blooming.

Over the last few days Jackie has been fine-tuning my weeding of the back drive. In addition to digging up a few more invading brambles, most of my work this morning was transferring the Head Gardener’s piles of weeds to the compost heap. We just need to apply an herbicidal spray to the gravel and the job will be done.

More irises;

Geraniums Johnson's Blue

geraniums like these Johnson’s Blue from Gloucestershire’s Hidcote Gardens;

and hostas, heucheras, alliums and bluebells are some of the plants that line these borders. We thin out the profuse alliums every year.

This afternoon we voted at the local County Council elections where we were informed that the turnout was looking like 20-30%, which was about average. I ask you.

This took place at Milford on Sea church hall. Jackie then drove us to the clifftop where

we thought the pink thrift, despite the gloom of the day, was looking quite colourful against  the grey water reflecting the slate sky.

Pigeon on clifftop

A small pigeon had come to contemplate the calm sea,

Walkers on beach

and a few walkers wandered along the beach below.

The caged structure to our left of the pigeon is intended to keep the public away from the crumbling cliff edge.

This evening we dined at Lal Quilla in Lymington. The welcome, the service, and the food, were as good as ever. My choice was lamb dansak with special fried rice; Jackie’s was prawn and mushroom biriani; we shared a plain naan, and both drank Kingfisher.

Message In A Bottle?

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This morning I tidied up the Head Gardener’s Walk. It was becoming a little overgrown.

This was the result.

Apart from a brief spell of sunshine when I was carrying out this task, today was very dull and overcast. It was not the afternoon to go in search of a field of bluebells – especially as we didn’t find it.

Ballard Water Meadow 1

We understood that it was part of Ballard Water Meadow and Woodland.

So dry has been our month of April, that the streams that cross the area are all but dried up.

Conservation has been in progress for some years. A footpath, logging, and cutting back of undergrowth beside the main ditch provide evidence of industry.

A handful of small black cattle sat around chewing the cud as I left Jackie sitting on a bench and went off on a bluebell hunt. The beasts contributed plentiful pats as their contribution to the ecology.

Cow 1

The cows quietly tolerated the flies crawling around their eyes.

Dog walker, buggy, cattle

Many dog walkers availed themselves of the pet-emptying facility.

Bluebells

I continued in search of the elusive bluebell field, and settled for the odd clump of the English variety – not the Spanish Armada.

Reflections in lake

I reached a man-made lake with its share of water fowl and reflections of nearby buildings.

Oasis wrapper

Unfortunately there was a smattering of litter in the surrounding woodland,

Maltesers in lake

and in the lake itself.

The Maltesers container lay at the edge. A couple of bottles stood up in the water. Was there a message in this?

On my return the cattle had risen to their feet and started foraging.

This evening we dined at The Crown Inn at Everton. I chose well-filled steak and kidney pudding with carrots and swede wrapped in a cabbage leaf, chips and gravy. Jackie chose duck with noodles, stir-fry vegetables and hoisin sauce. Desserts were respectively bread and butter pudding with pomegranate seeds floating in creme Anglaise, and sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream. Jackie drank draught Becks, and I began with a glass of Brown Brothers Everton Red, which was accurately described as having the flavours of the hedgerow. My second glass was the well-tried Mendoza Argentinian Malbec.