Expect Equine Visitors

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With yesterday’s snow now but a memory, today held a real promise of spring.

The Culinary Queen made us a picnic lunch,

half of which we consumed in Whitemoor Pool car park, which, in common with all other such New Forest facilities offers a really rocky ride from the road, riddled as it is with murky pothole pools. Ponies had been there before us.

On our way to the moors, we had enjoyed the drive along Lower Sandy Down where primroses, daisies, and crocuses thrust through the cropped sward on the shadow-striated banks of its clear, flowing, stream. One garden contained a huge fallen tree.

Runner and dog

Just outside Brockenhurst, I hoped the stains streaking the backs of the legs of a runner towing his dog was mud thrown up by his trainers from the soggy terrain.

As opined by Jackie, if you live in a New Forest village you must expect equine visitors to you garden or any patch of grass outside. So it is with Brockenhurst, where ponies basked in the welcome sunshine.

Back home, a wander around the garden with its own early afternoon shadows, made clear that our plants have all survived.

We dined this evening on Jackie’s succulent pork chops flavoured with mustard and topped with almonds; crispy roasted potatoes; crunchy carrots and broccoli; and red cabbage, peppers and onions in red wine, with which I finished the Chateauneuf.

“A Lot Of Work For One Man”

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This morning Jackie drove us out to MacPenny’s Garden Nursery at Bransgore, where we brunched at The Robin’s Nest. Jackie mooched around the

Plants for sale

sales area, where she learned how necessary were the signs asking people to keep their dogs on leads because they have chickens. Apparently more of their chickens are killed by customers’ dogs than by foxes.

I wandered along the garden paths and up and down the wooden steps.

A flowering cherry and several camellias were resplendent. Some of the latter soar amongst branches of trees, dropping their heavy blooms onto the beds of last autumn’s leaves.

Some spears of bulbous plants are piercing they way through the soil to join a few crocuses and hellebores.

I spoke first to a man collecting and delivering mulch to heaps beneath some trees.

These were for gardener, Rob, to spread around the beds. Rob himself told me that he was the only person who did all the plant care, maintenance, and weeding. “A lot of work for one man”, he proudly stated.

Urns with daffodils, primulas, and ivy

On our way home we stopped at Redcliffe Nurseries where Jackie bought two primulas and an ivy with which to supplement her planting in the iron urn and a new one just in front of it.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s stupendous sausage casserole; her pulverised creamy mashed potato; and toothsome Brussels sprouts and broccoli. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank Val de Salis Syrah 2014

 

Waiting For The Dilation

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A wander round the garden this morning yielded

 

spears of crocosmia, tulips, and daffodils piercing the soil;

Crocuses

crocuses opened further;

Primulas and snowdrops

and varieties of primula.

Daphne odorata

Daphne Odorata remains wary of the possibility of a cold spell.

 

The winter flowering clematis Cirrhosa now cascades down the gazebo,

 

while, in the Rose Garden, Winchester Cathedral has bloomed for several months; Mum in a Million and Festive Jewel are in bud;

Spring sculpture

and the sun shines on “Spring”

This afternoon Jackie drove me to Lymington Hospital and back, for my eye appointment. I received efficient treatment, the nurse being rather more friendly than the consultant, but it is not his bedside manner that I suppose one looks to. After the nurse’s checks, she administered drops intended to dilate my eyes. They were effective, and, according to Jackie, gave me a sexy air. On hearing this, the gentleman sitting next to me asked her to look at his.

The consultant advised me that the laser treatment to my left eye was, as I thought, required. Apparently another cataract is forming in the right eye. I was asked if I wanted it done. No advice was given. I declined. I now await a date for the operation to the left eye.

Further administrative confusion occurred, in that a handwritten notice on the wall advised that, as stated in the appointment letter, we may have further checks carried out after the examination in order to save repeated visits. These could take three hours. Neither my nor anyone else’s letter carried such information. However this didn’t happen.

Waiting for the dilation to take effect gave me sufficient time to finish ‘The Locked Room’, being the third short novel in Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy. In the penultimate chapter the author suggests that all three of these works are the same story. He also uses the word ‘absurd’ on a number of occasions. It is. We are lulled, in this final episode, into thinking we might be reading something that makes sense. The writing flows with excellent descriptions and presents a plausible situation involving apparently real people and their relationships. A childhood friendship, for example, is beautifully told. There is, as usual, no ultimate clarity as nonsense finally prevails. Not that I could follow, anyway.

Tom Burns’s illustrations were, however, a delight, true to the text to the end.

           For our dinner The Culinary Queen produced succulent pigs in blankets; sublime sage and onion stuffed roast chicken; firm Yorkshire pudding; creamy mashed potato; toothsome manges touts; and tender runner beans. Good gravy, too.  With this, I drank Wolf’s Leap merlot 2016.

A Haven Of Peace After The Storm

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This morning we wandered around the garden investigating signs of Spring regrowth. We have snowdrops, hellebores and crocuses coming into bloom.

Daphne odora

The still small daphne odorata is keeping its powder dry until the temperature is warm enough for its burgeoning buds to burst open.

From these signs of burgeoning life we visited the Woodland Burial Ground at Walkford so that, on what would have been her mother’s birthday, she could add to the planting around her burial plot. Pleased to see her earlier snowdrops coming through, she added more and a further primula.

The idea of this scheme is that human remains be allowed to rest in communion with natural woodland. There are no gravestones. Some bodies are buried; others’ ashes are interred. Each has a little marker. The soil around the plots settles naturally back into the earth. Only native woodland flowers are permitted to be planted on the sites, although it is clear that many people do stretch a point.

Jackie

Wreaths, such as that which we set in place in December, must be removed by the end of this month. Jackie took it away today.

Gardener

Two gardeners were busy tidying up after yesterday’s gales. In speaking to one, I observed that there was much to do after the storm. He agreed, adding that what was worst was the rain, bringing a great deal of mud and heavy soil that was difficult to work, especially in the digging of graves. I described his workplace as a haven of peace.

A diversion on our return home took us past Shelly and Ron’s home. Naturally we called for a pleasant chat, coffee, and, in my case, a slice of delicious Christmas cake.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s savoury rice served with Thai style prawn fishcakes, peas, and green beans.

 

 

An Introduction To The Bastides.

This morning I received an e-mail from the agent selling my French house. Attached was the document for me to sign giving the solicitor the authority to sign the contract on my behalf. Three of the original errors persisted. I responded by asking the agent whether I should alter these by hand. My signature has to be witnessed before I send it back by snail mail. I used the word “Aarrggh” in my e-mail.

Although I have featured the house in earlier posts, now is perhaps an appropriate time to respond to the request of Aussie Ian, the Emu, for images of the exterior of the house and its environs. This is a batch of colour negatives made in September 2003, five years before I bought the house from my friends Maggie and Mike. I scanned the pictures today.

No. 6 rue St. Jacques is an 18th century terraced house in the village of Sigoules. The longer of these two images includes Nos. 8, 10, and beyond.

As is evident from these views of the street, the house is situated at the top of a steep hill. Fortunately it is at the town square end. The first three pictures look down the hill from outside the property. The others look up.

Maggie and Mike in garden 9.03

There is a small patio garden which is a veritable sun-trap.

 

During my stay with my friends, we took a number of walks. Here Maggie and Mike pass a man-made fishing lake on their left. Berries, crocuses, and oaks all enlivened the countryside.

The path we were taking led to hills from which we could admire vineyards and the valley below.

Beaumont is one of the bastide towns to which my friends introduced me.

Built during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries ‘bastides were developed in number under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1229), which permitted Raymond VII of Toulouse to build new towns in his shattered domains, though not to fortify them. When the Capetian Alphonse of Poitiers inherited, under a marriage stipulated by the treaty, this “bastide founder of unparalleled energy”[5] consolidated his regional control in part through the founding of bastides. Landowners supported development of the bastides in order to generate revenues from taxes on trade rather than tithes(taxes on production). Farmers who elected to move their families to bastides were no longer vassals of the local lord — they became free men; thus the development of bastides contributed to the waning of feudalism. The new inhabitants were encouraged to cultivate the land around the bastide, which in turn attracted trade in the form of merchants and markets. The lord taxed dwellings in the bastides and all trade in the market. The legal footing on which the bastides were set was that of paréage with the local ruling power, based on a formal written contractual agreement between the landholder and a count of Toulouse, a king of France, or a king of England. The landholder might be a cartel of local lords or the abbot of a local monastery.’ (Wikipedia)

During the medieval Hundred Years War between England and France, the French rapidly fortified those towns that had not succumbed in the early destruction. Ownership tended to fluctuate between the two warring Houses, and when it was their turn, the English made good use of the fortifications that had been so effective against them. In fact, various websites inform us that Beaumont-du-Perigord was founded by England’s King Edward I in 1272.

The main feature of all bastides is a central, open place, or square. It was used for markets, and for political and social gatherings. I will introduce some of these in a follow-up post featuring more of these photographs.

For our dinner this evening, Jackie reprised yesterday’s chicken and black bean meal with all its accompaniments and the addition of equal excellent chicken chow mein. She drank Hoegaarden and I consumed the last of the Malbec and a glass of the 2016 vintage.

 

 

From Autumn Leaves to Snowdrops

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Bill Edney had the unenviable task of getting those of us schoolboys at Wimbledon College who could not manage Latin through ‘O’ Level Geography after several terms without a teacher. Today I remembered a different anecdote from that told in the link highlighted above.

Sheep, I know do not like long, lush, grass. How do I know? Because Mr Edney, a bluff countryman, publicly humiliated a classmate by ridiculing him for writing in an essay that sheep “like long, lush, grass”. According to the master they most definitely do not. How were we townies to know that? This lasting intelligence prevented me from seeking ovine assistance on our patch of overgrown grass. Having no sheep, I sheared it myself.

Grass cut

It still looks manky at the moment, but should perk up now the air can get to it.

Gazebo Path

This exercise exposed the tortoise, removing its hibernation cover.

Heligan Path

Close examination of this view along the Heligan Path reveals that

Crocus

purple crocuses are now emerging.

Crocuses and snowdrops

These paler ones share with snowdrops the shade of hellebores in the Weeping Birch Bed.

Bee on Hellebore

During the morning the warm sunshine brought out insects such as bees on hellebores

Bee on snowdrop

and on snowdrops;

Red Admiral on laurel

and a Red Admiral butterfly basking on laurel leaves,

Red Admiral on autumn leaves

seeking camouflage in autumn leaves,

Red Admiral on snowdrops

and slaking its thirst on snowdrops.

Palm Bed

This view across the Palm Bed leads to the grass patch.

Erigeron thinning

Jackie spent the morning clearing and thinning areas such as the erigeron clumps by the windows to the living room. This will soon be carpeted once more with daisy-like flowers.

This evening we dined on roast lamb, Jackie’s sage and onion stuffing, sautéed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, carrots, cauliflower, and greens. I finished the Cote du Rhone.

What’s Come Up

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Today, I wandered around the garden contemplating spring clearing, and investigating what’s come up.

Primulas 1

There are many different primulas;

Borage 1

 borage;

Borage 2

pulmonaria;

snowdrops

and hellebores galore;

daffodils such as February Gold and Têtes-à-Têtes;

Crocuses

crocuses;

Iris

irises;

Cyclamen

and cyclamen.

Heligan and brick paths

Views across the garden reveal most of these plants, and what needs to be done. Here we stand on the Brick Path to the left of the Heligan one.

Margery's Bed

The Phantom Path runs alongside Margery’s Bed.

Palm Bed

This is the Palm Bed;

Cryptomeria Bed

and this the Heligan Path winding between the Cryptomeria and Weeping Birch Beds.

This afternoon Jackie lopped the branches off the Christmas tree and filled an orange bag with those and the campaniflora clematis cuttings.

Roast lamb served with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, crunchy carrots, cauliflower and green beans was Jackie’s meal this evening. I had some, too. This was followed by lemon meringue pie and cream. I drank Vacqueras cru des Côtes du Rhône 2015.