The Foxton Flight

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It rained all day today. Aaron, who could not work in such weather, came for a pleasant chat over a mug of tea.

I will not bore either my readers or myself with full details of today’s BT episode. But it does warrant a brief mention. Yesterday, as you know, I had been promised a phone call from a manager about the charge of £50 to change the name on my account. The young lady who telephoned me from India this morning was certainly no manager. When we came to an impasse she transferred me to someone in England. The best I could glean from her, after she had consulted with her manager, was that this could only be done free of charge was by changing the phone number then transferring it back. There was no guarantee that our existing number would be accurately returned. I told her, for the recording, precisely what I thought of her company, stated that it was only my reluctance to change our number and my e-mail address, that kept me with them; and that I wouldn’t bother to take her up on her kind offer.

Then I scanned another set of colour negatives from my longest walk.

I don’t usually tinker with the colours in my photographs, but I did have a play with these three landscape shots.

Sam in Pacific Pete 7.03

Beyond Oxford, Sam took to the Grand Union Canal

alongside which the footpaths were often completely overgrown, albeit

with pleasant wild flowers, such as meadowsweet and willow herb.

Of the many butterflies flitting about, I only recognised the red admirals. (See John Knifton’s comment below)

Oak leaves 7.03

The shade from trees like this oak was often welcome in the heat of the day.

About the Foxton Flight of Locks, built between 1810 and 1814, Wikipedia informs us:

‘Foxton Locks (grid reference SP691895) are ten canal locks consisting of two “staircases” each of five locks, located on the Leicester line of the Grand Union Canal about 5 km west of the Leicestershire town of Market Harborough and are named after the nearby village of Foxton.

They form the northern terminus of a 20-mile summit level that passes Husbands Bosworth, Crick and ends with the Watford flight

Staircase locks are used where a canal needs to climb a steep hill, and consist of a group of locks where each lock opens directly into the next, that is, where the bottom gates of one lock form the top gates of the next. Foxton Locks are the largest flight of such staircase locks on the English canal system.

The Grade II* listed locks are a popular tourist attraction and the county council has created a country park at the top. At the bottom, where the junction with the arm to Market Harborough is located, there are two public houses, a shop, trip boat and other facilities.’

On the day Sam guided Pacific Pete down this staircase, family visitors were out in force. For once I was ahead of my son, and reached the locks in time to learn that the canal-side telegraph was buzzing with the news that a large rowing boat was on its way through.

The audience gathered to watch Sam use his giant oar to steer and propel the boat through the locks because there was no room to row.

Asian family leaving Foxton Flight 7.03

Did you notice the Asian man gesturing to his family in the first picture, and shepherding them over the bridge in the last, in order to lead them down the slope to see the rower on his way?

Child helping at the locks 7.03

There had been no shortage of helpers to push the long balance beams operating the gates.

There were plenty of narrow boats on the waters, but no other ocean-going rowing boats.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s glorious sausage casserole; crisp carrots, cauliflower and red cabbage, and creamy mashed potatoes. She drank Hoegaarden and I finished Helen and Bill’s Malbec.

The Butterfly Net

Paving 1Paving 2

Jackie and I spent the morning weeding whilst Aaron and Robin continued refining their paving. This involves finishing of the ends with brick cut to shape with an angle iron. There are only the central joins left to be completed. We are so fortunate that the proprietor of A.P. Maintenance is such a perfectionist.

We now have several crocosmia blooming.

According to my research, this one is Xcrocosmiiflora. Jackie says it’s ‘common or garden monbretia’;

Crocosmia Xcrocosmiiflora

Crocosmia Lucifer

about Lucifer, there is no doubt.

Marigolds

Jackie grew these marigolds from seed.

‘When did you take that?’ bemoaned The Head Gardener. ‘I dead-headed those this morning’.

The air was positively aflutter with butterflies this afternoon.

Butterfly Comma on echinacea

Commas abound. Here one seeks camouflage on an echinacea;

Butterfly Peacock on stump

as did this Peacock on a dead stump. It kept me waiting, back bent, lens poised, before opening its wings. With these closed, the creature looked just like a crack in the bark.

Butterfly Green veined white on verbena bonarensis

I think this, on a verbena bonarensis, is a Green-veined White.

Butterfly Red Admiral on hebe

Is this poor, battered, Red Admiral a reincarnation of February’s Battle-Scarred example?

I have written before of the penchant of Chris and I, when we were very little boys, for collecting various insects. Between us, my brother and I did not possess a camera, but we did have a butterfly net. Many happy hours were spent, mostly unsuccessfully, dashing around what were, to us, head-high fields, gleefully waving this weapon in the vague direction of the adult versions of the caterpillars that had so horrified our grandmother. What we actually did with the unfortunates we did manage to snare was not meant to be unkind. After all, when we stuffed them into jam jars, we did insert a few leaves and bits of grass, and punctured the lids so that they could breathe. I don’t imagine that these imagos lived out their, albeit brief, natural span. My current collecting is done with a camera.

Anyone driving to us for the first time, is likely to miss the existing sign on the front wall facing directly out onto the road. Jackie has therefore made another that she has fixed to the angled wall so that at least people coming from the direction of Christchurch, can’t miss Old Post House sign

If you aren’t interested in cricket, you may prefer to skip the next paragraph. If you are an English cricket fan, you may prefer to skip the next paragraph. If you are an Australian, whether interested in cricket or not, you probably wouldn’t want to skip the next paragraph.

I made the mistake of watching the TV highlights of the second Test match at Lords. Australia had, in their first innings, scored 566 runs for eight wickets. They then bowled England out for 312. Before lunch today, the visitors had taken their overnight second innings score to 254 for 2, at which point they declared their innings closed, leaving England 509 to make in more than a day and a half. Less than five hours later, England were all out for 103. It was nothing short of slaughter.

This evening, Jackie and I shared our hob in producing fried egg, bacon, tomatoes, and mushrooms, baked beans, and toast. We enjoyed the rest of Shelly’s apple pie and cream, with half each of a chocolate mint brought back from the Veranda last night. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and, despite it not being the most suitable accompaniment for a fry-up, I drank Louis de Camponac merlot 2014.

The Skip

28th November 2014

This is the fifth and final day of the black and white flower photo challenge. On the second I posted a close-up of cow parsley that is having a second flowering this year. I finished my response to the challenge with a shot of what this plant usually looks like in winter.Cow parsley

The Sun NewspaperSkipButterflis on skipApart from the soggy newspaper atop a skip in which butterflies perched on pearls in Shorefield Road, it was a sunless morning when I took my Hordle Cliff top walk in reverse.

Openreach vans are regular visitors to this area. I stopped and chatted to a gentleman Openreach engineerworking on a cab, as we now know the engineers call the cabinet. When, during the first of my recent calls to BT, the Indian adviser told me that the problem was in the cabinet, I would have been even more confused had he said ‘cab’.

This evening Jackie drove us to Wickham where we met Elizabeth and her friend Cathy at the Chesapeake Antiques Centre open evening. Mulled wine and mince pies were served and a beautiful singer performed. I found it difficult to negotiate the crowds in the confined spaces of the corridors between the packed rooms and display cases, so I soon repaired to the Veranda Indian restaurant where I waited for the others, and Cathy’s husband Paul to join me. There we enjoyed our usual splendid meal and Indian lagers.

On our return home I was once more unable to access the internet, and had to post this the next day.

A Rose For Retirement

HaircutBeach stones in pathEarly this morning Jackie resumed a task she had first undertaken more than forty years ago. She cut my hair, thus putting Donna-Marie out of business. Its colour was rather different first time round. The dark bit must be a trick of the light.

After this I placed the beach stones between the slabs in yesterday’s path. There were still not quite enough, and they put those found in the garden somewhat into the shade, so we will probably need a few more, even after I picked up some interesting pieces of flint on my later walk, and inserted them in place on my return.

During a break, Jackie has managed to identify two of the plants that had us beaten. The first is the white flower, libertia, depicted on 28th April; the second had been identified by Tess, but we couldn’t remember the name of the hebe salicifolia koromiko. Like our daughter in law, and so many of our garden treasures, these are both natives of New Zealand.

Dug up pathPaving from kitchen gardenWall round compost stage 1The day’s major joint task was to start on clearing the kitchen garden in preparation for its transformation into a rose bower. Largely hidden beneath the greenery lie treacherously uneven criss-crossing paths in all sorts of material, mostly brick, stone, and concrete, covering ancient layers of gravel. Any speculation about the evolution of this ankle-twisting surface would be fruitless. This, we have decided, will be the one area where we abandon what we find previously laid down, level it all off, and start from scratch with a sheet of squared paper.

I have begun piling up the paving, apart from the concrete slabs Jackie has snaffled to build a wall with which to restrain the compost.

Shady bedRetirement roseJackie has planted up what was the rather barren shady bed opposite the pale blue Ace Reclaim bench. The red rose in the container beneath the Gardman arch was given to her by her work colleagues when she retired from Merton Social Services Department two years ago. It has survived several moves, including overwintering at Shelly and Ron’s.

Mare's tailsLater this afternoon, I walked down to Shorefield stream and back.New Forest Tour bus The field opposite the entrance to the Country Park has a fine crop of mare’s tails. The New Forest Tour bus stops at the zebra crossing leading down to the chalets beyond the stream.

Pigeon on cableI had been hoping to photograph some coots today, but there were none in evidence.Small tortoiseshell male butterfly I did, however, watch a pigeon doing a high-wire act, and a male small tortoiseshell butterfly sunning itself on a buddleia.Red Admiral male butterfly Our butterflies, like this male Red Admiral prefer basking on our paving stones to perching on our version of that plant.

We dined on refreshing salad again this evening, followed by strawberries and evap (for the uninitiated this is a family term for evaporated milk) on a bed of Tesco’s raspberry twirl cheesecake. The cheesecake was reduced in price because it was pushing its sell-by date; the evap was reduced in fat content, because it is less likely to fatten the consumer. I drank more of the French cotes du Rhone and Jackie her Belgian beer (Hoegaarden in case you’ve forgotten).

Keats’s Season

Loft insulationWall of back hallApple treesYesterday the loft insulation was carried out.  A damp beam betrays the broken tiles which need replacing on the roof.  The back hall was prepared for specialised papering.

Maggie and Mike collected me in the evening and drove me to their home at Eymet where we enjoyed a meal focussing on a Russian fish pie, followed by cheese and melon; with some red wine and an evening’s convivial conversation.

BerriesGrapesFir conesOnce the morning mist had cleared, a fine autumn day revealed the poet’s ‘mellow fruitfulness’. Sigoules landscape I walked the loop centring on the Thenac road, up along the main route through Sigoules and down the narrow winding track to the Cuneges road.  Although it dulled over before I had returned the day began bright and sunny, and continued to be so after I had returned.

ButterflyHigh on the vine-covered slopes a proliferation of butterflies flitted here and there.  Bright yellow ones in particular chased each other around, reminding me of yesterday night’s courting couple.  Up and down, round and round they yo-yoed, never settling for the camera.

Some grapes seem to be allowed to fester on the stems.  I gather this is a necessary process of viniculture.

SunflowersThe sunflowers also looked rather past their best, until one remembers that it is their oil that is harvested.

Distant bonfire

What must have been a seasonal bonfire sent up spirals of smoke in the far distance.

Max’s lunchtime offerings in Le Code Bar began with noodles and a variety of vegetables soup; then a soft, dressed, avocado at its peak, served with salami, coarse pate, a green salad and a cornichon; next the usual daunting, perfectly cooked succulent steak plentifully garnished with garlic, pepper and onions, accompanied by crisp, glistening, freshly fried chips; and finally a pear tart with chocolate sauce.  And it bears repeating that all this comes at a price of 13 euros.

The Gun

Having got home rather late last night, this morning I produced yesterday’s post, half a day late.

White butterflyButterflies appear to be rare in the New Forest.  Jackie’s flowers are, however, attracting them.  They even manage to get over the anti-deer net.

When visiting Milford on Sea and its environs we have noticed a grand entrance to a long drive bearing the sign: New Forest Water Gardens.  Today, Jackie drove us there.  We were to be doubly disappointed.  This was no stately home offering sightseers a glimpse of a world of which they can only dream.  It was a supplier of ready made ponds with water features, plants, and no doubt frogs and newts to order. New Forest water garden For £6,995 you could have a Jack and Jill.  The second disappointment would have been more relevant had we been hoping to buy.  Today is Friday.  New Forest Water Gardens is closed on Fridays.

Continuing on to Keyhaven we decided to drown our sorrows in The Gun Inn.  I will let an extract from one of the menu cards tell a little of its history:

The Gun Inn history

We further gleaned the information that in days gone by the landlord had the responsibility for fishing the bodies of drowned sailors out of the seawater below.  No doubt this led to the mortuary function.

Today the premises house a multitude of collections, such as clay pipes, cigarette cards, matchboxes, horse brasses and many others.  You must look everywhere for these.  The matchboxes, for example, are fixed to the ceiling.  There are lots of cosy, linked, rooms and a large sheltered garden at the rear, with a small one at the front.

The Gun Inn bar

While we sat with our drinks we absorbed the atmosphere created by the locals in the bar discussing sailing, boats, and barnacles.  One of them most certainly looked the part.  We were intrigued by the 240 different whiskies on offer.

300px-Punt_gunHad Rob Keenan not been my brother-in-law, and had he not had a penchant for unusual mechanical artefacts, I may not have known that the canon portrayed on the pub sign was incompatible with the history on the menus.  113I would never have heard of a punt gun, let alone recognised one. The Gun Inn - Version 2But Rob was the proud owner of one of these contraptions that goes off with an enormous, startling, bang fit to bring out the fire brigade.  In its day, that is the nineteenth and early twentieth century, mounted on a punt, it could bring down 50 waterfowl with one eruption.  A man allowing it to be fired from his shoulder would certainly need his head looking at, preferably before the trigger was released.

The Gun Inn

Jackie made tandoori chicken with pilau rice for our dinner.  I opened a bottle of Chilano cabernet sauvignon 2011, and drank some of it.