Chances Of Making It Through Christmas

This Wednesday weather was warm, wet, yet unwilling to welcome the slightest sign of sunshine.

Jackie and I visited Lyndurst for a little Christmas shopping then enjoyed

brunch at Lyndhurst Tea Rooms, after which we took a trip by car into the dripping forest.

A clutch of chickens at East Boldre

gave the cold shoulder to

a pair of geese who were no doubt discussing their chances of making it through Christmas.

Peering through the misty precipitation from the end of Tanner’s Lane I presumed that EU regulations have not  restricted the activities of the sole fishing boat trawling  The Solent at that point.

On such a day as this, loggers burning branches at Norley Wood surely had no need of the flames to keep them warm.

A string of ponies blocking the road at Pilley conveniently stepped aside, just giving me time to bring up the tail.

We retuned home via Burnt House Lane, where there was no flame in sight.

Tomorrow morning, Elizabeth will be driving Mum to a respite care home in Netley. In readiness for this, friends Pauline and Jo sent Elizabeth this photograph, attached to a text with the caption

Cheering up your Mum.

On the wall to the far right of this picture is a charcoal portrait of Elizabeth watching our first television that I made about 60 years ago.

This evening we dined on smoked haddock; creamy mashed potatoes; piquant cauliflower cheese; moist ratatouille; crisp carrots; and tender runner beans. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and Elizabeth and I drank Western Cape Malbec 2018.

A Home

Today was gloomy, inside and out. Rain persisted throughout; skies and our rooms were most dingy.

Even at midday one could barely see the pale pink winter flowering cherry juxtaposed against the dripping crab apples.

The temperature was, however, warm enough for the nasturtiums and the solanum to keep their shape without becoming their usual flaccid selves at this time of the year.

And dingy inside? That was because we experienced an, albeit anticipated, extended power cut to facilitate the supply being installed in a new house in Hordle Lane.

That did, however, provide us with a perfect excuse to brunch at The Walkford Diner. My All Day Brunch was one of the smallest grilled ensembles on offer. Jackie’s mountainous cheese and onion baked potato was accompanied by a plentiful fresh salad.

From there, we back-tracked to New Milton, where Robert Alan Jewellers fitted two new watch batteries while we waited. We have always been impressed by the service here. Among other previous experiences we bought our wedding rings at this excellent local establishment.

Once our electricity was back in operation, scanning pictures was the order of the afternoon. Elizabeth is seeking inspiration for the decorations to her Swedish wooden house from the splendid designs of Carl and Karin Larsson. She already possessed a copy of Floris Books’, 2006, Carl Larsson’s ‘A Home’ (ISBN 0 – 86315 – 549 -9). This morning I read it myself. Each of the illustrations is accompanied on the facing page by a clear and concise explanatory text.

Here are scans of the front jacket and a few of the wonderful paintings featuring interiors.

Elizabeth is staying with Mum for three nights, so this evening Jackie and I dined on pizza and salad with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Médoc.

Well Worth The Effort

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Regular readers may have noticed that it is some months since we enjoyed a brunch at The Beach Hut Café on the promenade at Friars Cliff. That is because I have been unable to make the trip down from the clifftop car park.

The first stage, from the car park, is reasonably level, but far enough for me at the moment.

Military communication satellite station plaque

The concrete rings have featured before. This plate explaining their purpose

is screwed to the rock to the right of this path bypassing the rings. The cyclist will slalom round the barriers down

the sloping footpath leading to the beach huts,

and the beach with its clear view of the Isle of Wight and The Needles.

The most difficult part of the descent for me was this very steep incline.

When I ran the fells in Cumbria I would much rather run up than down the slopes. And that was when my knees worked.

Having reached the promenade there is a straight, flat, section between the huts and the benches sited for those who wish to watch the waves;

taking us to the café, which was, as usual, full to bursting both inside and out, although the demography of the patrons is somewhat different from that in the school holidays. In fact, while Jackie joined the lengthy queue for service and I investigated the seating options, the only available possibility was sharing a picnic table with a friendly woman and her unobtrusive dog. Noticing my rather hopeless efforts at jackknifing myself into position, the kind lady offered to seek out a chair for me. She did so. I thanked her and sat down. Jackie then arrived to tell me that there was a free table inside. I thanked my new friend once more and took up a place inside. Shame, really.

The food was definitely well worth the effort. I couldn’t fit my plate containing two rounds of toast and marmalade into the shot.

After this, we had to retrace our steps. The rather bent elderly woman towing her shorn dulux dog kept up a pace neither of us had any hope of emulating.

Jackie had no trouble with the steep slope

but avoided the steps which were my preferred return route.

Our central heating has never really worked upstairs. Knowing weather was about to cool down, we asked Ronan of Tom Sutton Heating to sort out the radiators. He fixed a pressure problem and bled the radiators. A date was arranged for him to fit a new vent to one of them. The next dat the boiler stopped working. Fortunately our shower is electric and we have an open fire and a kettle. We limped through until today when Ronan made an emergency visit. I won’t bore people with the technicalities, but we need a whole new system, which is what I expected in the first place. This will take 3/4 days, need bedroom floors taken up, and be expensive.

This evening we dined variously. Jackie chose Tesco’s pulled ham with mashed potato and carrots accompanied by Hoegaarden; my Tesco’s prepared dish was chicken jalfrezi; Elizabeth enjoyed the last of Jackie’s beef pie. My sister and I both drank more of the Pinot Noir.

 

Which Statues?

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Brick path with urns

Yesterday, Jackie bought two nicely weathered stone urns from an outlet in Molly’s Den, and positioned them either side of the brick path.

Urns

She accidentally let slip that there were four more available. Naturally we had to dash off this morning to procure them.

We also bought two garden statues which could not be resisted. Once more, it was two young ladies who helped us load these latter items onto  a sack barrow, enabling us to transport them to the car. Because of the overall weight, three trips were required to take them home, unload them, and install them.

Jackie and Linda 1

Linda, on our second journey through the antiques centre, was vacuuming the carpet in her section. Seeing Jackie pass with a couple of urns perched on the barrow, she switched off her Dyson, and engaged in a pleasant conversation in which she told us that they had once belonged to her. She had sold them to the dealers from whom we had made our purchase.

Later, we spoke again, and learned that our two items of statuary had also belonged to this cheerful woman who was downsizing.

Garden statuary

Which two pieces from this corner site did we choose? All will be revealed tomorrow.

When finishing a heavy morning’s humping at Molly’s Den, there is only one thing to do.

Brunch

We did it. We consumed the obligatory Molly’s Pantry brunch.

Urn by weeping birch

The rest of the urns are now distributed around the garden.

The statues will be unveiled tomorrow.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s excellent beef pie, glorious gravy; and crisp carrots, Brussels sprouts, runner beans and new potatoes. she drank Diet Coke, and I finished the malbec.

The Beach Fortress

This morning Jackie drove me to Molly’s Den and left me there to hunt for a birthday present for her, whilst she carried out various other errands. I didn’t find anything satisfactory, but the journey was worth the excellent brunch that the antiques and bric-brac centre provided. Brunch

Mine was, as you would expect, a fry-up – a first class one. I trust you can see the quality of the meaty sausages,the wedge of non-fatty black pudding, and the lean bacon. Everything was cooked to perfection, and the thick toast was probably home-made bread. Jackie enjoyed an equally well-cooked baked potato stuffed with prawns. We knew we would eat sparingly this evening.

For much of the day winds gusted at more than 30 m.p.h., and diagonal, driving, rods of rain beset us as we left Molly’s.

By mid-afternoon, The skies had cleared, and the downpour had ceased,

Clematis Carnaby

raindrops dripped from the clematis Carnaby,

Cabbage white butterfly on geranium

a Cabbage white butterfly slaked its thirst on a geranium,

Garden shed

and I changed Jackie’s birthday present into a garden shed ordered from Purewell Timber Buildings.

The fourth of my  Five Photos – Five Stories, is inspired by one of our fairly frequent Instow holidays with Henry, Judith, Nick, and Lucy Pearson.

Instow is an old-fashioned, carefully preserved, village lying opposite the former fishing village of Appledore in North Devon. The beach and the village lie within the Instow Conservation Area. It was all the more remarkable, therefore, that within the space of one day in August 1999, a magical construction emerged from the pristine sands.

Led by nineteen year old Sam, a team including Louisa, cousins Nick and Lucy, and friends Gemma and James, had created a vast turreted fortress of sand, complete with defensive wall and moat, and embellished with flags. Local children became willing navvies, and the word soon got about. David Shepherd, retired England cricketer and international umpire, gave his support.

Louisa-sandcastle 9.99

I am not sure what exactly was originally envisaged, but an idea of the scale of what was produced is indicated by this photograph of Louisa posing against the setting sun.

By nightfall, the flaming torches lit up the darkness, and what seemed to be the complete population of the village turned out to enjoy the celebration, naturally enough toting an ample supply of liquid sustenance. I expect we all eventually got to bed.

Yesterday I had published my invited story with five photos rather than the suggested one. This was because the book was a tale in pictures. The photo above, as with so many of the single shots I feature, was one of a series that followed the process of the project. Maybe one day I’ll cover the rest.

This evening we dined on Spanish omelette, bacon, and crusty bread and butter.

The Knocker

Soon after 6 a.m., reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’, there he was, the blackbird, ‘rapping, rapping, at my’ office window. This went on for hours this morning. Jackie is quite worried about the poor creature. Let’s hope he gets fixed up with a mate soon.

BlackbirdWhen preparing for the fray he perches on a shrub we may be able to identify once it has bloomed.

Last night Jackie had researched architectural salvage outlets that might provide the missing article from our front door. She came up with Ace Reclaim at West Parley near Ferndown. We didn’t think we’d have time yesterday to get there before they closed, so deferred our trip to this morning.

Down a very rough track beside a garden centre, we found a veritable aladdin’s cave of treasures from bygone eras for the home and garden. What I liked was that almost everything carried an individual price tag. This makes life easier for me as I am emotionally ill equipped to haggle. I would have played the part of Brian in his eponymous film’s haggling scene rather well.

The men on site were friendly and unobtrusive.Jackie in Ace Reclaim We were allowed to wander at will and were left alone to forage in the cabinet containing what we required.

Maybe it was the knocker on the window that focussed us on the missing one on our front door. Maybe we were becoming self-conscious about Jackie’s invitation to all and sundry:Knocker missing sign

Maybe it was both. Anyway, we found one. It didn’t have any bolts with it, so off we went to B & Q. Before reaching this DIY store at Christchurch we were tempted by Mum’s cafe. Situated on Fairmile Road between Norfolk and Suffolk Avenues this marvellous establishment serves a range of beautifully home cooked food of excellent quality. Breakfast at Mum's cafe

Naturally we had brunch.

The bolts in B & Q were sold in packets of ten with their measurements in millimetres. I am quite used to seeing packets of peanuts bearing the warning ‘may contain nuts’. The bolt containers were unequivocal in their message that they did contain nuts. Actually we didn’t need the nuts, but I don’t suppose the company would take them back and give us a discount.

Working out the thread diameters was fairly straightforward, given that we had the knocker with us. The length we would require was a little more problematic since we hadn’t brought the relevant door with us. Jackie had the brilliant idea that we could measure the thickness of one of the doors on sale in the store. She did that whilst I went to choose a drill.

Back home we discovered that our front door, although comparatively modern, was thicker than those at B & Q. So back we went to change the bolts, and returned home in time for me to receive a welcome phone call from Sam.

There were no bits provided with the drill, which was no problem because I had a case of drills at home. Somewhere. In a box. Somewhere.

I had seen them. I know I had. In this house. In a box.

So a search ensued. Eventually I found them in a box marked fragile. From a previous move. Obviously.

Then I had to decide which bit to use. Which ones were for masonry and which for wood? A bit of trial and error was employed. Finally I had drilled two neat holes through the centre of the door. Just not quite the right distance apart.Door knocker

‘One bolt will hold it firmly in place’, was Jackie’s encouraging observation. It did. I will do my best to forget my error. It might take some time.

This evening Jackie drove us to Totton and back, so we could dine at The Family House. Our continued custom after the move paled into insignificance when compared to that of a woman and her son who had returned on holiday from Queensland in Australia. When they had lived in Totton they had been regulars of  this restaurant. The food was as good as ever, the company as convivial, and the T’Sing Tao beer as thirst quenching.