A Home Visit

Jackie is not one to spend a day in bed through illness. Her cold has now developed into a severe chest infection. This morning the productive cough continued and she had a throbbing headache – itself a rarity.

It was clear to me that a home visit was required. Once through the system I managed to convince receptive others of that. A quick phone call from a GP resulted in a speedy visit from two paramedics attached to the surgery; a thorough examination by them; an immediate phone call back to the GP; a prescription sent directly to the Milford Pharmacy for antibiotics and steroids which Elizabeth collected for us within a couple of hours, bringing with them a bunch of flowers.

Jackie was able to come down to sit in her chair for the afternoon. She even went to sleep in it – a first.

I did find time for a quick dash around the garden with my camera, where

the copper beech

and the Japanese maples are fast shedding leaves;

rose hips, especially if I haven’t been able to reach them for dead heading, add their own seasonal colour;

shadows stretch across surfaces like that of the orange shed;

primroses have forgotten the month;

the winter flowering clematis Cirrhosa Freckles is well aware that we are in December;

and this viburnum is not sure.

Our blackbirds are tucking into the crab apples. This one enjoyed pecking at the fruit beneath the leaf at its feet until it saw me and sneaked off into the shrubbery with it.

This evening we dined on my sausages in red wine, with cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and boiled potatoes chopped by Flo with which I drank Mendoza Malbec 2020, Dillon and Flo drank elderflower cordial, and Jackie abstained.

A Plethora Of Snowdrops

Before Jackie discovered that, for the first time in 15 years, we can now view Test Matches live on free to air terrestrial television I listened to the first day of the England v India match on BBC sport. I watched the last couple of overs on Channel 4.

This morning I took advantage of a break between showers to wander round the garden with my camera.

The irises reticulata are all now in bloom, with tulips beside them pushing up.

Other irises and numerous hellebores still collect raindrops.

Camellias are quite prolific.

Honesty seed pods now have a skeletal presence and the metal plant Louisa gave us for Christmas will live on for a while.

Some winter flowering clematis cirrhosa Freckles have survived their recent heavy pruning.

Wherever we go we encounter a plethora of snowdrops.

This afternoon we paid a brief visit to Barry and Karen to deliver his prints.

Afterwards we took a brief drive along the lanes, like Coombe Lane largely waterlogged.

Sunlight streamed across the landscapes, lit the lichen coated hedges, and silhouetted the bones of an oak tree.

A small shaggy haired pony eyed me as I photographed its more delicate be-rugged cousin.

Jackie photographed a pair of rooks – or were they crows? – conducting a corvine conversation.

Several donkeys were installed on Wooden House Lane.

The stream running under Church Lane reflected the trees above.

This evening we dined on the varied flavours of Jackie’s piquant cauliflower cheese; creamy mashed potatoes; smoked haddock; with carrots and petits pois for splashes of bright colour. We both drank Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2020.

Stygian Skies

Heavy rain fell from decidedly Stygian skies throughout the morning during which I finished reading the fourth chapter, entitled ‘ ‘Give me combat!’ France: 1894-9′, of Barbara W. Tuchman’s The Proud Tower.

I had previously been vaguely aware of the Dreyfus Affair with dominated the decade, but never really understood it until reading Tuchman’s analysis of the schism that split France. Dreyfus was a French army captain who happened to be Jewish and was unjustly accused of selling secrets to Germany. There is now no doubt that Captain Dreyfus was framed by the French military authorities who used forged documents to condemn him to years of imprisonment. It became a national conflict between the Dreyfusards, convinced of his innocence, and those who believed the military should be supported at all costs. Violent anti-Semitism developed and was pitted against those, largely artists and intellectuals, who fought for justice.

I will refrain from offering more details save to say that the ultimate pardon did not come with a finding of innocence. Ms Tuchman describes the physical and emotional violence of the warring parties, which also involved a failed assassination. France, too, had the seething undercurrent which seemed endemic to the rest of Europe.

My mid afternoon today the rain had ceased and a brief appearance of sun had cast a little light over the land.

While I readied myself for a trip into the forest Jackie nipped out into the garden and photographed

raindrops on weeping birch and clematis cirrhosa Freckles.

The chameleon skies were the canvas on which my camera painted

varying tones of indigo and smoky ochres with pink tinges.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s mixed meats and vegetable stoup followed by pepperoni pizza and fresh salad, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank The Second Fleet Cabernet, Merlot, and Petit Verdot Coonawarra 2019.

Cleaning Out The Frog Pond

Jackie spent most of this gloriously sunny and warm spring day working in the garden.

In the front she photographed budding Amanogawa

and crab apple blossom,

and a row of different coloured cyclamens.

I took tours before and after lunch, choosing to focus first on a variety of daffodils;

these, alongside the Dead End Path, are strongly scented and aptly named Park Perfume;

 

iberis cascades over the New Bed wall in front of more;

nodding to the dreaded all-pervading white allium another masquerades as a cheery scarecrow.

The sunshine has encouraged one of yesterday’s tulips to open wider,

to blend nicely with these marigolds.

Camellias continue to shine and to discard their heavy blooms, some of which persist in

growing old gracefully.

Varieties of wallflowers are blooming;

these yellow ones kneel at the feet of euphorbia in the back drive border.

Honesty is bursting out all over. It will be a brave individual who sits on this chair in the Weeping Birch Bed.

The burnished Japanese maple near the Fiveways corner

takes the eye across the Gazebo Path to North Breeze,

skirting the peeling-pastel-sheathed eucalyptus on the lawn, beside which

clematis Cirrhosa Freckles still festoons the iron gazebo.

Looking south east from the above-mentioned maple takes us into the Rose Garden whence

we have a view towards the house. I will be in dire trouble for leaving that blue plastic trug in the shot.

Given that during the Covid-19 pandemic bedding plants cannot be purchased

Jackie’s pelargonium cuttings in the greenhouse are even more important than usual this year.

They are even attracting ladybirds.

 

This view from the Kitchen Bed leads to the Nottingham Castle bench;

this one across to the greenhouse.

It is through a kitchen window that I managed to catch Burt, the long tailed tit, playing on his honeysuckle trellis. Like a child who will run endlessly up the steps for another go on a slide, Burt swung through the air time and again, incessantly hopping back up for a repeat performance. The bird can be seen peering in beside the window catch – it is well worth bigifying.

The Head Gardener’s main task today was cleaning out the weedy Frog Pond. This is how she pictured it this morning,

and this with clear reflective water this afternoon.

This evening we dined on roast duck breasts; roast new potatoes; meaty sausages and fried onions; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; and tender cabbage, leeks, and runner beans, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Shiraz.

 

 

 

 

Sunshine And Shirtsleeves

Today was one of sunshine and shirtsleeves.

While Jackie worked on the Oval Bed I carried a few trugs of refuse to the compost bin, and a few cans of water to the Head Gardener. It may seem hard to believe that the plants need watering at the moment, but we have not received rain for a while.

We have bright magenta aubretia.

Bees are very much in evidence. Interestingly they seem to prefer yellow flowers, selecting that hue from this pot of tulips, particularly ignoring this

pale pastel specimen nearby.

Celandines have nestled beside one of the

two pots of tulips

brightening the Rose Garden.

We have a number of creamy yellow primroses

and golden cowslips.

Hoping that some would successfully germinate Jackie had buried clusters of wood anemone corms around the beds. We now have numerous clumps.

She is even more delighted to find the first blooms of her new camellia Jury Yellow.

Various euphorbias are also flowering.

Overhead, the copper beech still bears bare branches

The winter flowering clematis Cirrhosa Freckles continues to adorn the iron gazebo;

while summer snowflakes defy the season.

Jackie also photographed snowflakes with daffodils;

honesty which promises to be prolific;

new shoots on a pink carpet rose;

backlit honeysuckle leaves;

and her own perspective on the Rose Garden.

Nugget put in a few fleeting appearances, showed no interest in the worms the Head Gardener was unearthing, and declined to spare the time to pose.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s splendid chicken soup with crusty bread from the freezer. The soup consisted of the compost base made yesterday with plump chopped chicken breasts, crispy bacon, peas and sweetcorn. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Mezquirez reserva Navarra 2013.

Precipitation

Yesterday Jackie tidied up the area fronting the garage door trellis. This involved clearing away last year’s plants that were beyond their best-before date, especially the still blooming nasturtiums that should have shrivelled and died months ago. She then added new life to the pots.

Today was one of steady, light, rain. Starting with the Head Gardener’s new planting of perky primulas and pansies

I photographed pellucid precipitation on diverse daffodils;

on fresh tulips;

on other pansies;

on hellebore brollies;

on winsome wallflowers:

on camellia petals;

on slender summer snowflakes;

on pink pelargoniums;

and on a closed clematis Cirrhosa Freckles.

Floral lichen on the back of the Nottingham Castle bench is developing nicely.

This afternoon, Valentine from HSL brought a sample chair,

one of which he tried out for size for each of us. Having taken an order he returned this one to his van and, for the first time in two years, I was able to rise from a seat without using my arms.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s luscious lemon chicken; crisp roast potatoes; and crunchy cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, with tasty gravy. I drank Carinena El Zumbido Garnacha Syrah 2017, while the Culinary Queen abstained.

 

 

“I’ll Have A Copy Of That”

Despite yesterday’s rain the Head Gardener drove to Otter Nurseries clutching vouchers for special offers of seven different items. One of these was for 10 fifty litre bags of compost. The helpful staff had stuffed these all into the Modus. Unfortunately they did not offer to unload them at this end. That was my task this morning. I piled them up beside the shed, then staggered inside for a sit down.

Today had dawned as dry, bright, and sunny as yesterday was wet and dreary.

Jackie entered the garden in order to photograph Eric the pheasant. He immediately scarpered, so she cast her camera lens onto the plants.

These cranesbill geranium leaves bear a slight dusting of last night’s light frost.

 

One of Eric’s little games is to decapitate daffodils. He missed those in these three pictures.

Fallen camellia blooms enhance the third composition. Others remain on the shrubs.

 

 

New clematis shoots cling to the weathered iron gazebo, preparing to supersede

winter-flowering Cirrhosa Freckles;

These blue pansies will soon be supplanted by their pot-sharing tulips.

Pink hyacinths,

magenta cyclamens.

two-tone comfrey,

and cream hellebores brighten beds.

Spring is the season for nest-building and incubating eggs. It is prime poaching period for predatory magpies.

On the lookout for potential prey one of these plumed pests perches atop a blighted oak on the other side of Christchurch Road.

Later this afternoon Jackie drove us into the forest.

On Shirley Holms Shetland ponies grazed in the soggy landscape

which was waterlogged in parts, a number of reflective pools having been recently created

on the wooded side, the drier sections of which were littered by fallen branches,

beech nuts,

and their leaves.

On my way back to the car I photographed an equestrienne approaching us.

As she drew near she smilingly exclaimed “I’ll have a copy of that”.

“What’s your address?” I enquired.

“I’ll take it off your blog” she replied. It was only then that I realised that the beaming face beneath the unfamiliar helmet was that of Anne of Kitchen Makers.

So I felt the need to produce a close-up of her astride her splendid steed.

Beside Church Lane at Boldre lay a recently uprooted tree in a field occupied by

horses wearing rugs to protect them from the overnight temperatures currently slipping below freezing.

Daffodils surrounded the Church of St John the Baptist, in the graveyard of which

a photographer shepherded his subjects.

A gaggle of geese now occupied Pilley lake;

Hatchet Heath harbours more than its normal quota of ponds;

and swans smoothly glide on the slopes of East Boldre.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s juicy chicken jalfrezi and savoury rice with plain parathas accompanied by Hoegaarden in the case of the Culinary Queen and the last of the Cabernet Sauvignon in mine.

 

 

 

 

Comparatively Unscathed

Jackie produced a few photographs of dawn this morning.

Although the skies would darken with rain squalls and the windspeed increase at intervals after lunch the morning was brighter and the speed 45 m.p.h.

I toured the garden investigating what turned out to be very little damage.

The patio planters in front of the French windows were unscathed;

a few pots, like this one on the Kitchen Path,

and this beneath the clematis Cirrhosa Freckles, had toppled;

a few slender branches had been ripped from the copper beech and the weeping birch;

the already disintegrating rose arch had lost a piece of its top;

the back drive gate had shed some of its screen;

empty compost bags had been blown about a bit;

but many areas, such as the Shady Path were unscathed.

Nugget’s Wisteria Arbour was intact. “Where’s Nugget?” (67)

This afternoon the weather alternated between dark sleet showers and bursts of sunshine during which

darting blue tits took what opportunities they could to grab a peck

between those squabbling sparrow trapeze artists swinging on the swaying feeders

from which they spilled more than they consumed.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy pasta arrabbiata plentifully packed with peppers, mushrooms, onions and garlic. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Where’s Mrs Nugget?

Jackie planted a clutch of primulas this morning.

While she was at it she kept tabs on the winter flowering clematis Cirrhosa Freckles,

and the mahonia that has grown into a tree.

She observed an encounter between a snail and an owl;

and admired the burgeoning Daphne Odorata Marginata and the

Chilean lantern tree.

By far the most exciting discovery, however, was that Nugget had become exceedingly frisky, as was his companion who followed him around.

Yes.

A Mrs Nugget has arrived.

“Where’s Mrs Nugget” in this picture? It is only fair to say that she is not on the feeder, and has her back to us. The Assistant Photographer worked very hard to capture them both in the same shot.

Today I finished reading

Because of the proliferation of pictures in this volume I could do no more that scan them before we set off to The Darbar restaurant in Emsworth where we were to dine with Becky and Ian. I will describe the book and feature the illustrations tomorrow.

We were given a pleasant surprise in that Miche also joined the party and the enjoyable conversation over the meal.

I chose a goat curry the name of which I cannot remember; Jackie’s pick was paneer shashlik. We all shared onion bhajis while Jackie and I shared mushroom rice and a plain paratha. We both drank Cobra, along with Ian and Miche. Becky enjoyed a pomegranate cocktail.. I’m not sure what the others ate.

On our return home we were sent off a closed section of the M27 and diverted into the centre of Portsmouth from which, so confusing were the diversion signs, it took us an hour to escape. The consequence is that it is now 11.15 p.m.

 

 

Backing Up

Knowing that we were to expect further stormy weather today, Jackie helpfully took her camera into the garden at dusk yesterday and photographed

primulas,

cyclamens,

bergenia,

hellebores,

camellias,

clematis cirrhosa Freckles,

a pelargonium,

a mahonia with accompanying New Zealand flax,

snowdrops,

and Daphne odorata marginata all in bloom.

The Generous Gardener rose set to climb the recently heavily chopped cypress has taken well.

While she was at it the Assistant Photographer also added a fern owl for Pauline’s benefit.

Just about avoiding the rain that was to follow we drove early into the forest.

On Barrows Lane a row of daffodils were already in flower.

We were, yer honour, proceeding at a gentle speed along the narrow, winding Lower Mead End Road when

distant headlights reflecting on the wet tarmac alerted us to the approach of an oncoming vehicle,

As always in such a situation someone has to back up. Jackie is of the opinion that this is very rarely a BMW driver. So it proved today. My Chauffeuse did the gentlewomanly (You are chauvinist, WP – I did not type gentlemanly) thing and reversed until there was some degree of passing space.

Polite waves were exchanged as the gentleman in the other vehicle sailed by and we continued driving through the pools ahead.

The woodland and Boundary obscured grazing ponies,

yet cattle were quite visible among the moorland gorse.

You could be excused for imagining that this picture of Sway Tower against streaky pastel skies was produced either at sunset or sunrise. In fact it was 11 a.m.

After lunch Jackie brought back my first Easter egg from Tesco’s where these delicacies had been on sale for at least a week. Like the pictures that began this post her intention had been that I might like to “put it on the blog”.

This evening we dined on succulent roast beef, crisp Yorkshire pudding, creamy potato and swede mash, and firm, tasty, Brussels sprouts and carrots with which I drank more of the Garnacha Syrah and Jackie drank Maury 2013.