“The Smell Of Autumn”

Today was pleasantly temperate. We took an early drive into the forest where the wider roads are often crossed by hoofed animals who make the own tracks into the woodland.

We stopped at the junction between Crow Hill and Charles’s Lane for me to photograph examples.

The track forks with one tine running alongside Charles’s Lane

and the other crossing it to

continue beside Crow Hill.

Serendipitously, as I was making this record, a young equestrienne left the hill, crossed the lane,

and continued on down the slope. The horseshoe in this picture will be leaving its own print in the dusty soil;

the cloven , heart-shaped, depression in this will have been left by one of the string of cattle who are the real sappers of this terrain.

A couple of keen, fit, cyclists who stopped at this junction struggled to find a cycle track with the aid of their modern device. I offered them an example of old technology in the the form of an Ordnance Survey map. The woman said she preferred old technology, perused and returned it once they had established that they would probably need to continue on the road for a while. The gentleman recently cycled from Land’s End to John O’ Groats with a companion who had received two knee replacements three years ago. I suppose this should have been somewhat encouraging.

The first of these samples of verge detritus was photographed on the edge of Crow Hill, the second at Ibsley,

perhaps stamped on by an angry cow.

Outside Burley a group gathered beside a pony being fed by a young girl. At one point the animal turned away from the hand that the young lady extended, but later thought better of it.

“The smell of autumn”, fondly uttered Jackie as the scent of oak smoke from burning branches drifted into our nostrils.

We followed a splendid veteran car through Ibsley. The driver indicated that we should pass him. We waited on ahead so I could photograph him from the front. He turned off into a side road. Perhaps there cannot be too many happy accidents in one day.

We enjoyed a late breakfast at Hockey’s Farm shop in South Gorley.

A pair of young donkeys, showing signs of moulting, stopped for a snack in the middle of the road outside.

This afternoon Ronan of Tom Sutton Heating visited to check on our central heating problem. He diagnosed a drop in pressure resulting from a hidden leak in the system. He applied two cans of stuff designed to seek out and seal it.

This afternoon, Jackie gave the lavender in the Rose Garden a good haircut. She was not alone. “Where’s Nugget?” (10)

This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent beef in red wine; creamy mashed potato; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; and tender runner beans I picked earlier. The Culinary Queen drank Blue Moon and I drank Tesco’s finest Western Cape Malbec 2017.

The Angel And Blue Pig Inn

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North Breeze garden work

Work starts early in the morning in the razed North Breeze garden. In preparation for the rear extension, soil has been dug out from the area behind the house. Presumably the digger is levelling off the heap. The fire is now concentrating on rubbish from indoors. We have a view across the pub car park to the fields beyond that the jungle has previously hidden from sight.

Garden view from Safari Suite

This is our garden from the same viewpoint. The blurred effects are from sunspots, not smoke.

Pedestal with dahlias

Mark, who has bought the house, has given Jackie this pedestal from the lounge. He thought she might be able to put something nice on it. He wasn’t far wrong.

Having taken two more orange bags of garden refuse to the dump we drove on to Lymington to the Register Office seeking an appointment for a marriage. This, the website informed us, was situated at

Lymington Library

Lymington Library.

What the website did not inform us was that appointments could only be made on line or on the telephone. There was nothing outside the library to confirm the location, but we found this at the back of the building. A very helpful librarian peered through the registrar’s office window and encouraged us to wait outside the room and nab her when she had finished with the people she was interviewing. This didn’t seem a particularly hopeful possibility, so we sat outside the small chamber and when I had managed to obtain a signal, I made a call to the general office.  Naturally all the staff were busy and I had to listen to repeated messages telling me I could do this on line. Eventually another very cooperative young lady took me through what we had to do to progress to the next stage, which would probably take two months. Then we would be given an appointment time. I’m sure the whole business was much more straightforward in 1968 when we enjoyed our first wedding.

Did I mention that Jackie’s ancient laptop died this morning? I thought not. This meant that our next visit was to Peacock Computers where Max, the sales person, was not available until 2.00 p.m. This left an hour and a half to kill.

We wandered down the High Street,

Ice creams, keys, mobile phone

passing visitors clutching car keys, ice creams, and mobile phones;

Family crossing road 1Family crossing road 2

and watching groups with pushchairs eagerly awaiting their chance to cross the busy road that mostly became clear when vehicles held each other up.

Our goal was

The Angel and Blue Pig 3The Angel and Blue Pig 4

The Angel & Blue Pig Inn, where we enjoyed excellent lunches.

The i New Forest website informs us that ‘Since the 13th century the Angel Inn has welcomed weary travellers. It is notorious with tales of smuggling and in the 18th Century Lymington like much of the south coast was rife with the ‘Free Trade’. There was a tunnel running under Lymington High Street to a smaller inn opposite and from there it proceed down the hill to the water. Smugglers could then haul their brandy, silk and spices without catching the eye of the customs men.

The Angel also has a spooky reputation. Allegedly one of the most haunted hotels in Britain. Up to 6 ghosts including a coach driver, naval officer and a phantom blonde have been seen on the premises.’

The building was refurbished in 2013.

Woman with dog on lap

We ate outside, where we attempted to converse with the archetypal lapdog which took vociferous exception to me when it turned around.

Pigs in metal

A pair of iron pigs kept us company

Cherubs

while a couple of cherubs, one coy, and the other sleeping, watched over us. At least, they would have done had they opened their eyes. Whoever modelled the sleeper certainly knows how baby boys are wont to crouch in their slumbers.

Pig dangling

Another pig was suspended from a makeshift gibbet.

The Angel and Blue PigThe Angel and Blue Pig 2

Most customers preferred the small garden area, but a few found the dimmer inside more comfortable.

My main meal consisted of wonderfully fresh fish and triple cooked chips with mushy peas and tartare sauce; Jackie chose salmon and haddock fish cakes and salad. We both enjoyed treacle tart with orange-flecked ice cream for dessert. I drank Ringwood bitter while Jackie drank Amstel.

That takes care of my customary culinary coda, so I will sign off after reporting that a satisfactory meeting with Max resulted in our ordering a new laptop for Jackie.

Donkeys and Ice Cream

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When we arrived home from Elizabeth’s late yesterday afternoon, the house was very smoky, and the garden full of ash, all emanating from a bonfire in the North Breeze garden, which had been almost razed to the ground. The jungle is no more.

Much rain in the night freshened up our garden,

Bonfire in North Breeze garden 2Bonfire in North Breeze garden 1Bonfire in North Breeze garden 4Smoky garden 1

but had not put out the fire which was added to today.

Dahlias

Some parts of our plot and its contents, like these dahlias, still saw the sun,

Smoky garden 2Smoky garden 3Smoky garden 4Smoky garden 5Smoky garden 6Smoky garden 7

but mostly it remained befogged.

By Hatchet Pond

Elizabeth, Danni, and my great nephew Jasper, came to lunch, after which we drove in convoy to Hatchet Pond.

Jasper and Elizabeth 1Jasper and Elizabeth 2Elizabeth and Jasper 1Jasper 1

Jasper and his Gee-ma investigated the lapping wavelets at the edge of the water.

A woman handed the little lad a bag of prawn crackers with which to feed the water birds. As I said, you always receive too many of this freebies with a Chinese takeaway meal. Jasper wasn’t all that interested, so Danni decided to feed them to

Donkeys 1Donkey foalDonkey shadow

the hastily arriving donkeys, one of which was really very young.

Danni feeding donkey 1

She began with a medium-sized one,

Danni feeding donkey 2

which was head-butted away by the largest creature.

Donkey 1

This animal was so aggressive that the crackers were soon chucked on the ground.

Water liliesBall and water lily

Leaving Jackie on a bench, the rest of us walked to the far end of the pond, past the water lilies,

Women on bench

and others seated in the sun,

Jackie, Jasper, Danni, Elizabeth, ice creams, and donkey

in search of ice cream.

Jasper and Elizabeth 3

Elizabeth clutched wipes for protection against her grandson’s drips,

Jasper and Elizabeth 4

occasionally licking her lips in anticipation.

Ice cream melting

Eventually she was handed the melting cone.

Donkey close-up 1Donkey close-up 2Donkey close-up 3

After this, the aggressive donkey rested its muzzle on my lap.

We dined on Mr Pinks’s fish and chips, gherkins, and pickled onions. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, while Elizabeth and I finished the Douro.

Jasper, Elizabeth and Danni

Danni has just e-mailed me our selfie on the bench.

 

Before And After: The Back Drive

A good part of the day, until I set the incinerator going at 4 p.m., was spent in selecting and printing the next section of the garden development album.

If there was any task more daunting than anything else in the Old Post House garden, it was the back drive.

Jackie in back drive

This is what it looked like on 14th June 2014. An extremely careful examination of the picture will reveal Jackie at the far end embarking on spraying herbicide. After about a metre this was abandoned. The gate in the foreground didn’t fit and was roughly attached to a rickety makeshift fence.

Wheelbarrow prepared for bonfire

Nine days later the main burning pile, which will be featured later, had encroached onto this area and the old wheelbarrow that was to hold the pyre, had been put in place. The barrow itself stands on a few inches of soil forming a shallow raised bed on which vegetables had been grown. A ring of granite sets held this in place. There were several such booby traps lying about. The panels leaning on the new fence are, we think, part of what was described in the inventory as ‘greenhouse, unassembled’. further down, the older fence has been pushed over by the neighbours’ firs.

Back drive

By 21st July, further encroachment made combustion seem an impossible task.

Bramble across back driveThick brambles attacked from both sides, rooting freely in the earth strewn gravel. This one was lopped on 28th July, because It kept clawing my head.

Jackie with bonfires 1

By 19th September we had made some little headway on weeding, but were still burning branches, many of which, of course had come from other parts of the garden.

Back drive 10 a.m.

Two days later, felt we were getting somewhere. This was the scene at 10 a.m. when we began taking out the shrubbery and trees growing up the side of our neighbours’ house;

Back drive 1.30 p.m.

and this at 1.30 p.m.

Pruned conifers

Another four days and Jackie had made considerable progress in keeping the invasive firs in their rightful place;

Back drive entrance

and by 1st October we had begun defining the entrance, making yet more use of the excavated concrete slabs.

Aaron working 2

In the new year it became apparent to us that we were definitely in need of help. I reluctantly had to admit that there was a limit to what we could manage alone. By 21st February 2015 we had had the good fortune to engage Aaron of A.P. Maintenance. As I told him today he has had a far bigger impact on what we have achieved than by his work alone. Here he is digging out a clump of ornamental grass which I couldn’t lift. We now call this plant ‘the Phoenix’, because it resisted all attempts at destruction, including burning. It flourishes in Elizabeth’s Bed.

Back drive

Aaron only visits on Sundays, but this is the progress he had made by 8th March, in levelling of the soil, much of which was transferred to the rose garden, and edging the right hand border with found bricks. Jackie and I had pruned the griselinia hedging which has been allowed to become an avenue of tall trees.

Jackie executing four point turn 4

On 5th April, Jackie was able to use the strip for its intended purpose. On the left hand side, Aaron has used the granite sets for edging.

back-drive 26.4.15

Three weeks later, he and Robin had covered the drive with most of the gravel.

aaron-concreting

This was completed on 10th May, after Aaron had cemented a retaining bar outside the entrance.

Back drive

By 11th October the drive was in full use. Jackie has lined both sides with flower beds. No doubt I’ll have to tackle the fallen leaves soon.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s classic chicken jalfrezi, special fried rice, vegetable samosas, and onion bhajis.  She drank Hoegaarden and I drank another glass of malbec.

I Couldn’t Shoot The Pheasant

This is today’s second post, because I jumped the gun and fired off the first too early.Bonfire on back driveSnowdrops and hellebores in garden

In order to clear the area for Aaron to finish his work on the back drive, I had a bonfire this afternoon. At one point, walking back to the house, past snowdrops, hellebores, and other early flowers, a sudden raucous squawk and ungainly flapping sound alerted me to the cumbersome upward ascent of a brightly coloured male pheasant that had emerged from the ground beneath the bird feeders near the kitchen window. Because my camera was sealed up in my working trousers pocket, I was unable to get in a shot of this unusual visitor.

Fortunately there was enough of Jackie’s superb lamb jalfrezi meal from two days ago for us to have some more this evening. This time we finished the Isla Negra together.

 

Leith Hill

It has been rather a sleepy, sluggish, day today. The effect of the virus is diminishing, but departing with some reluctance.

Again I concentrated on scanning colour slides. These were the last 22 from my honeymoon with Jackie in March 1968. They were taken on a short trip across to Leith Hill, the highest point in Southeast England, set within the beautiful Surrey Hills. Its gothic tower, built in 1765, and now owned by the National Trust, rises majestically above the surrounding hills and from the top you can see sweeping views towards London in the north and the English Channel in the south.Jackie 3.68 028

With its ancient woods and views across open heathland, the area has been popular with visitors since Victorian times.Trees 3.68 001

Within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) the hill is home to an abundant wildlife. It’s also designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).Tree 3.68 001Tree 3.68 002

Jackie 3.68 033Jackie 3.68 030Jackie 3.68 032Jackie 3.68 037Jackie 3.68 038 - Version 2Fire 3.68 002Trunk sawn  3.68                                                                                                                                                  On the higher land in this beautifully crisp early spring day we brought one source of warmth with us, and found another. The car blanket was our contribution, and we came across yet another fire, this time a bonfire consuming the work of the woodmen.

Jackie’s delicious sausage casserole, its sauce enhanced by three quarters of a bottle of Albai that I had opened three weeks earlier and not been able to drink, served with mashed potato and swede, and a melange of fried leaks and carrots, was what we dined on this evening. Jackie drank Kingfisher and I consumed more of the chianti.

 

From Erotic To Gothic

Having admired Mario Vargas Llosa’s epic tale , The War of The End of The World’, I decided to embark upon another of his works. This time I chose a slighter book, the elegant and gentle piece of erotica ‘In Praise of the Stepmother’. Very well written, the tale was ultimately a considerable disappointment. The first book had contained a few indications of the writer’s fascination with sexual love, but the more violent descriptions seemed the less remarkable in the context of a savage war.

The second book, cleverly links the narrative with famous paintings, such as Titian’s Titian, Venus with Cupid and MusicVenus with Cupid and Music’. The novel features an inappropriate relationship between a forty year old woman and her stepson, in which the small boy emerges as the scheming initiator. The disappointment is that the child is presented as possessing the control. In any such relationship it is the adult who is misusing power. Given the focus on historic child abuse in recent years in this country, I wonder how Faber’s 1991 publication would be received today.

I finished reading the book this morning, before taking my usual Hordle Cliff beach walk in reverse.

PigeonsAs the leaves fall from the trees, the rooks will soon be returning to their nesting area, but at the moment that is occupied by pigeons.

Chalet demolition 1Chalet demolitionThe chalet demolition in Shorefield Country Park continues apace.

Although the morning was drier and brighter than yesterday, strong winds roared across Sea and cloudscapeGrasses by seathe Solent, bringing waves crashing on the shingle, and bending the ornamental grasses growing beside the steps descending from the cliff top. Sunlight set autumn leaves Bramble leavesThe Needlesablaze and threaded its way through The Needles.

ClematisOur winter flowering clematis Cirrhosa is displaying the freckles by which it is known.

I was fortunate to avoid much of the rain this morning. The afternoon was rather wetter. Having recently watched Andrew Graham-Dixon’s BBC4 programme, ‘The Art of Gothic’, I was inspired to read Horace Walpole’s ‘The Castle of Otranto’, described as the first Gothic novel. I read Devendra P. Varma’s introduction to my Folio Society edition this afternoon.

Jackie’s recent sausage casserole has, with the addition of slabs of beef and a little more bacon, has become a mixed grill stew. And delicious it was too, as we dined on it, with roast potatoes and boiled carrots and runner beans, this evening. My choice from the array of desserts was tiramisu. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Castillo san Lorenzo reserva rioja 2009. Flo just ate her dinner.