Close Encounters Of The Asinine Kind

Although The Needles lighthouse fog warning could still be heard, last night’s mist eventually cleared from Downton to reveal a splendid warm and sunny day, on the morning of which my garden meandering revealed:

Forsythia

a forsythia,

Azalea

and, now budding, the azalea transported from Sutherland Place.

Cherry blossom

Cherry blossom can now me seen emerging from the North Breeze brambles,

Greenhouse and brambles 1Greenhouse and brambles 2

which are choking that abandoned garden’s greenhouse,

and, ‘imitating the action of the [triffids]’, again sending their tentacles across our makeshift fence. This afternoon I cut them back.

Ponies on greenPony 1StreamStream and ice cream van

This afternoon Jackie drove us around the North of the forest. On this balmy day we knew we would see the usual animals wandering on the roads and through the villages. Ponies chomped grass on the green and by the stream at Ibsley where an ice cream van was doing a good trade. A boy paddled in the water sucking on his ice cream while his parents sat on a rock eating theirs. I didn’t think it politic to photograph them. This area had been waterlogged when we brought Flo there for a photo session last year.Pony 2

Pony 3

On the banks of the stream the dappled sunlight enhanced the strawberry ripple of a grey pony, and another looked as if its dye had run into the gently flowing ruddied water.Donkey on roadDonkey 2Donkey rear view

Donkeys abounded in North Gorley. One, sleepily, lay in the road for a good hour or so, only lifting its head when a car sped past. It pricked up its long ears and raised its nose quite suddenly, but dropped it slowly to the ground once the danger was past. It seemed to know exactly how far to let it fall before coming to rest. At no time did it move the rest of its body, any more than did the grey/white one on the grass outside The Royal Oak pub. These two animals were treating their different heated surfaces as electric blankets.Pheasants on roof

Perched on top of the thatch of Cobweb Cottage in Hyde, were two pheasants. Jackie thought there would be no chance of their flying away at the sight of the camera, so I might get a decent shot in. Perhaps the person who fitted the weather vane was a cricket fan.

It was on the approach to this village that encounters with the fauna became, to varying degrees, disconcerting. Having been attracted by the long shadows cast by the donkeys as they grazed beneath the trees, I emerged from the car, camera at the ready. But they were onto me. Almost literally. One in particular advanced at a steady, silent pace, merging its shadow into mine. Backing away didn’t help, so I settled forDonkey 1

another grazing,

Donkeys necking

and two of its companions necking.

I gave up and returned to the car. No sooner had I sat in the passenger seat and closed the door than my more attentive acquaintance pushed its head through the open window, poised its muzzle inches from my crotched started moving it up and down. I felt particularly uneasy, not to say queasy, until I realised that my persistent suitor was scratching its neck on the window frame. That is what caused the rhythmic movement and the flaring of the nostrils. There was nothing for it but to use it as a photo opportunity.

Donkey's eye 1Donkey's eye 2

Donkey's eye 3 - Version 2

When Jackie asked me if I had taken any shots that showed the animal in the context of having penetrated into the car, I replied that I couldn’t get far enough away to have anything in the frame but the asses head. It was like photographing Shakespeare’s Bottom from centre stage.

I am sure that the donkeys themselves are harmless. But what they carry is not. These creatures bear the ticks that give humans Lyme disease  when they bite them. A visit to Google will provide details of this unpleasant affliction. I did rather hope that my amorous friend wasn’t dislodging its ticks into our car.

This evening Jackie and I dined on her superb sausage casserole, mashed potato, cauliflower and broccoli. I finished the rioja and my lady abstained.

P.S. Becky has pointed out that three of Jackie’s fingers on the steering wheel are reflected in the donkey’s eye.

Eric’s Trampling

Even in the restaurant last night, my camera was not safe from Flo’s clutches. Here is a photograph she took of her mother:Becky

For those of you who have suggested the obvious Birthday/Christmas present, we bought one for this talented photographer a couple of years ago, but she didn’t bring it with her this time.

Letter and Telephone boxes

This morning, albeit painfully, I made it a couple of hundred yards to the post box without a stick. Despite the increasing use of e-mails and texts to communicate in writing we still post letters in these historic boxes. How long the increasingly costly service will manage to survive is open to question. Like most of the country’s telephone boxes this one has fallen into disuse. They remain a tourist attraction in London, but elsewhere the mobile phone has rendered the landmark red cabinets largely obsolete.

No Parking rape fieldGlass jarsCherry blossom

There is a gap in the hedge alongside the field, through which the farmer gains access between the rows of parked cars. Glass jars had been lobbed into the hedgerow where cherry blossom now blooms.

Ornamental cabbage

We have an interesting ornamental cabbage in the garden. I played with maximum saturation on this heavy crop.

Heucheras

The heucheras are now flowering,

Eric's trampling

which is more than can be said for anything planted under the bird feeders where Eric tramples,

Eric 1

before going on walkabout (photographed by Flo yesterday).

The sausage content of Jackie’s classic casserole comprised chipolatas from Lidl combined with Tesco’s finest pork and red onion. The other usual ingredients contributed to the rich, tasty, sauce. Mashed potato; and crisp carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli were the supporting cast. I finished the cabernet sauvignon, while Becky and Jackie drank a melange of rosés.

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.

Imperial Knob Screws

GardenGarden urnCherry blossomApple blossomThe garden was looking very inviting today, blossom, such as apple and ornamental cherry abounding, but the house itself remains a priority for our attention.

Flo is coming a day earlier, so we set out early to B & Q, the national DIY company originally set up by Messrs Block & Quayle in Southampton in 1969. Marks & Spencer’s, is of course, another large national outlet known by its founders’ initials. Our high streets are also graced by C & A and H & M stores; the first being the first name initials of the Dutch entrepreneurs who founded the store in 1841, and the second from the surnames of Swedes Hennes & Mauritz in 1947. C and A were Clemens and August Brenninkmeijer. As Michael Caine famously claims never to have said, ‘not a lot of people know that’.

Now, where was I? Ah, yes. B & Q.

We went in search of curtain rails and the missing screws from the door knobs that fell off on 31st March. Jackie found the curtain rails whilst  I rummaged through rows and rows of screws, bolts and nuts seeking something that might possibly fit the bar I had in my pocket. I only found two fittings that might vaguely serve the purpose. Both were too long. I reported to one of the check-out desks to ask if they had any more. The helpful young lady put out an SOS on the tannoy asking someone from hardware to come and assist me.

Now there’s a word to conjure with. Tannoy.

Tannoy is a Scottish -based loud speaker and public address system manufacturing company. Never having any idea who has installed the particular system we are listening to, we always call such a facility ‘the tannoy’. Just as a vacuum cleaner is always a ‘hoover’ and a ball-point pen ‘a biro’. Even Google, the search engine that provided me with the information on Tannoy, is now a noun to be found in dictionaries.

Ah, yes. B & Q.

Clive soon appeared and rummaged, equally unsuccessfully, with me. He announced that they didn’t do them, and suggested Castles, ‘an old-fashioned ironmongers’. Jackie and I didn’t know where Castles was, but she had googled ironmongers the night before, and knew there was one in Lymington. So off we drove to Lymington, which, incidentally is in the opposite direction to Christchurch. There Jackie, having done her usually successful google walk didn’t quite get a turning right in the car, and moreover wasn’t sure of the name. We ended up at Crystals at the far end of the High Street. It wasn’t possible to park there, so Jackie continued on round the one-way system to Waitrose, where she went shopping whilst I back-tracked to the hardware shop. There a very helpful young woman directed me to Central Southern Security just past the railway station at the other end of the street. I knew this because we had passed it earlier. So off I went on foot the way we had come in the car.

Knights receiptAnother helpful individual, this time a man, hunted among his screws for something that might fit. He explained, as had the young woman earlier, that these screws normally came as a set with the knobs, and there wasn’t much call for them these days. Also they had an old kind of thread. He didn’t find anything suitable, but he did send me on to a real ironmongers called Knights, opposite the library. And there I struck lucky and bought four imperial screws at 20p each. The old thread must be an imperial measure.

Then I had to find my way back to Waitrose car park. I realised that I was probably now in a direct line to the car park and should not have to retrace my steps back to and along the High Street. I had exchanged greetings with a traffic warden earlier, and suddenly spotted him again. Now, who else but an ambulant traffic warden would know the quickest way there? Graveyard - family walkingGravestonesHe did, and directed me through a car park; along a couple of cuts, or back alleys; and across a cemetery, to Southampton Road where I would be ‘near enough there’. Miraculously, I followed the route and ended up at Waitrose just as Jackie was emerging with a loaded trolley. This was handy because I was beginning to think that a Modus in that forest of cars was like a needle in a haystack.

Jackie rather kicked herself for not remembering the ironmonger’s name.

Becky and Flo arrived early this evening and the four of us dined at Elephant Walk Indian restaurant in Highcliffe. A little more upmarket than others we have enjoyed, the food here was superb, but we had to wait for it. The service was friendly, but one had the feeling the two women on duty were rather overstretched.

 

You Could Say I’d Be Stumped

Ornamental cherry

The encouragement Jackie has received from our neighbours about her garden at the Lodge has inspired her to aspire to new heights.  This meant we had to visit Cadnam Garden Centre, ostensibly for more netting for the rabbit proofing.  I set off a little earlier than Jackie, so she could drive there and have a coffee and read whilst waiting for me to arrive.  What I hadn’t been aware of was her plan to add a Gardman Gothic Arch to her little plot which measures 86 inches (220 cm) by 18 inches (46 cm).  So we bought one.  And the netting.  And a couple of terra cotta pots to block a hole between the steps and the end of the building through which a rabbit, capable of breaching a three inch gap, might wriggle.  There also had to be a couple of hanging baskets.Pink wheelbarrow  I was attracted to a display containing a wheelbarrow beautifully coordinated with the plants in front of it.  Jackie pointed out that it reflected garden centres’ realisation that most gardeners are women.

Gothic arch installedThe afternoon was devoted to the assembly of the arch.  With all our IKEA experience we are dab hands at this now.  However, should you ever think of allowing yourself to be diverted whilst stretching out a measuring tape, into letting go the far end without locking the spool, it is not to be recommended.  Later, we returned just before closing time for the necessary compost.  My right hand wasn’t too comfortable with the Elastoplasted knuckle of its third finger being slid under the compost bags to lift them.

After lunch we had another trip by car to the Acres Down Farm Shop where we bought vegetables for the bank holiday weekend, not fancying braving one of the supermarkets on such a day.  It is a distinct feature of country life that trips to buy standard items become outings worth recording.  No longer can we obtain anything just around the corner or after a trip on an underground line.

The walk that split the shopping and construction periods was most pleasant. The blooms of an ornamental cherry of a Japanese flavour at the back of the house gleamed in the sunshine or sheltered in the shade of a neighbouring trunk. Running Hill Running Hill becomes leafier by the day, and shadows were cast everywhere. near Hazel Hill Ponies, whose numbers were to increase as the day went on, were out in force.

Fallen trees

I have already mentioned (on 24th April) the number of fallen trees that litter the forest. Fallen trees (2) As a newcomer to the environment I could only presume that the fact that they appear to be left in situ for the benefit of the ecosystem.  Fallen treeDuring our ancient tree hunt on 1st May, I asked Berry about this. Fallen tree (2) She explained that a comparatively recent policy had changed traditional practices.  It was once the case that one third of the fallen tree should be left on the ground whilst two thirds could be removed by local people for firewood.  This age-old right of neighbouring residents has now been removed; the forest now looks untidy; and footpaths are blocked.  But what do I know about it? Rotten fallen trunk Undoubtedly these fallen giants, in various stages of decay, do provide great benefits for a variety of flora and fauna.  Jackie pointed out that there must have been a need for a way of establishing when two thirds of a tree had been removed.  ‘Suppose’, she said ‘one family took away two thirds; then another took away two thirds of what was left, and so on.  You would wind up with nothing’.  Well, I hadn’t got an answer for that.  Masquerading as Mother Christmas, she had included a Mensa calendar in my stocking.  This has a puzzle challenge on a tear-off pad each day.  I wonder if there is such a conundrum in there?  If so, I’d have to pass on it.  You could say I’d be stumped.

Fallen tree Shave Wood

On my walk I had taken a diversion through Shave Wood.  It was quite difficult to negotiate a way through this, because of the fallen trees.

Ox heart casserole was Jackie’s offering this evening.  It was tender and tasty.  Plum crumble was for afters.  I finished the Piccini.

Taking A Hint

Emily is now a nineteen year old student of Art History at Nottingham University.  As I gazed skywards this morning, whilst waiting for Jackie to unlock the car to take me to the station for my London trip for visits to Norman and Carol, I saw one of my granddaughter’s first drawings.  When asked what she had reproduced with a white chalk line across black paper, she replied ‘an aeroplane’.  She was about two. Jet plane Such are the advances in technology in the intervening years that the camera can now clearly show the two jet streams and the plane itself, not so visible to even the two year old naked eye.

The quiet coach on the outward journey wasn’t.  Halfway along the carriage were seated three elderly women, at least one probably hard of hearing.  One didn’t get much of a word in, but the other two more than made up for her.  Intimate domestic arrangements; stories of cruises; the layout of London streets; how to care for nails; and many other enlightening topics distracted me from my Susan Hill.  Although packed, the return train was much quieter and I was able to finish reading ‘The Magic Apple Tree’, being a record of a year in the country.  I don’t know when blogs began, but this delightful book, first published in 1982, has all the ingredients of one.  The writer even describes gardening; growing, cooking, and eating food; and offers various recipes of her own.  She takes us through the changing seasons and their affects.  I was reading one of my late friend Ann’s volumes. John Lawrence's Winter I bought my own copy as much for John Lawrence’s marvellous engravings as for anything else.

I walked the usual route from Waterloo to Green Park and took the Jubilee Line to Neasden. From Waterloo Station road bridge A footbridge spans the road from Waterloo Station and the South Bank of the River Thames.  Crossing a square and descending some rather loose steps takes one to the London Eye.  At the top of these steps stood a young woman with a child in a buggy.  Her older companion, looking past me, the only person in sight, observed ‘we are going to have to get someone to help you.  I can’t, because of my back’.  Undeterred by my apparent invisibility , I took the hint and the bottom of the buggy.

Piper on Westminster BridgeThe gilt on the Westminster Bridge lamp stands glinted behind the lone piper as he mopped his brow and swigged some bottled water.  He has stood on that spot, puffing away, all through the recent cold months.  Now in shirt sleeves, ‘I’m not complaining’, he said of the warmer weather.

In St James’s Park, I was just in time to alert a woman crouching to be photographed with a little girl that her strawberries and cream were sliding off the folded over cardboard plate clutched in her downward stretched right hand as she concentrated on putting her left arm around the child.  It probably would have made a great picture, but it would have been rather cruel just to let it happen, even for the sake of art.

An authentically dressed, youngish, woman stood at her easel endeavouring to capture in pastels a gorgeous display of flowering cherry blossom. Pastel Painter, St. James's Park When asked if I could photograph her she said she wasn’t happy with the painting.  She had one with which she was much more satisfied in her portfolio case.  It was clearly a day for taking a hint, so I asked if I could see it.  She took pleasure in unwrapping it for a private viewing.  It was indeed very good, but of a different scene.  I explained that I was more interested in her and her activity than in simply recording the result.  She was both happy and relieved.

For a change, Norman having had an operation four days ago, I brought the food and he produced the wine.  Jackie had selected and bought the stilton and cauliflower soup; the gala pie salad; and the brioche bread and butter pudding.  The wine was an excellent Greek cabernet sauvignon.

Afterwards I visited Carol, then returned home by the usual routes, Jackie waiting at Southampton Airport Parkway to drive me to our flat.