Sculpted By Prevailing Winds

Aaron is continuing to work as long as he can. This very sensible proprietor of A.P. Maintenance has taken advice and uses his plentiful common sense. We leave the gate open for him so he doesn’t have to touch it and he knocks on the window to announce his arrival. He keeps well away from us, doesn’t come into the house, and brings his own refreshments.

Jackie photographed him reading the list of tasks that she has taped to the inside of the kitchen window.

Blackthorn lines the hedgerows of

Hordle Lane, along which I walked after lunch as far as the paddock and back.

Because the overnight temperatures at the moment are close to freezing, the horses still wear their protective rugs.

Daffodils still brighten the verges, but

the drying ditches are lined with carelessly lobbed bottles, cans, and food packaging.

Arable fields flank the winding lane;

some are divided by hedges and trees sculpted by prevailing winds.

Pine cones cling to branches before eventually dropping to the ground.

It is now two or three years ago that a young teenage girl died in a car accident on this site. Her mourners keep her memory alive.

There wasn’t much reduction in traffic along the lane today;

a cheery cyclist kept his distance as we exchanged greetings;

I was slightly nervous about whether this group of four pedestrians and a dog maintained the requisite distance from me as we passed. I imagine they lived together.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy hot chilli con carne with a mix of brown and white boiled rice. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Mezquirez.

Look. No Hands

This afternoon we both collected our new specs from Boots, then drove into the dreary, drizzly forest.

Along Undershore there stood an example of the broken trees on soggy terrain that currently proliferate in the woodlands.

There wasn’t much sign of life until we came across cattle wandering along Sowley Lane.

Owner’s tags, as always, adorned their ears as they stared us out.

Several calves were left to their own devices, although by and large they stuck to the verges. One chewed its tail;

tried on a new necklace;

and indulged in a bit of grooming.

One seated adult turned her clarty back on the proceedings;

another had dried her hide after a mud bath.

Crowds of crows took to the air overhead.

Ponies on the corner of St Leonards Road were equally mud-caked;

one somnolent group dozed beside

a weedy winding winterbourne stream swiftly swirling,

sweeping loose leaves and flexing fixeded grasses while surging to a tunnel under the road.

As may be imagined from its name, such a watercourse flows only during the winter months.

The terrain at this junction between St Leonards Road and that to East Boldre becomes a similar pool during very wet weather. Today a passing cyclist was reflected in it.

He clearly had no use for his steering bars as his hands were otherwise engaged. I hoped he was the only one going round the bend.

This evening we dined on belly of pork, roasted long and slow in order to drain away the fat; firm roast potatoes and parsnips; crunchy carrots and tender cabbage, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Carenina El Zumbido Garnacha Syrah 2018.

The Path To Deadman Hill

The day before yesterday I finished reading

being the final novel in the trilogy of the Larkin family, first featured in “Freak Of Fate” in which I described the first book; how I came by it; and the amazing coincidence of the address on the flyleaf, also borne by this Book Club edition published by Michael Joseph in 1960.

In his now familiar rollicking style the author continues to relate the cheerfully energetic romp through life of Pop Larkin, his friends and family. I have now realised that one of the chief pleasures of these stories is the ease with which Bates weaves beautiful bucolic descriptions into his innocently scandalous narrative. For the Larkins, life really is “perfickly” beautiful. Maybe, only 15 years after the ending of the Second World War, that is what the world needed.

This morning we visited Bill and Helen to exchange birthday presents.

We diverted to Abbotswell, near Frogham, on our way home, then decided to lunch at The Fighting Cocks at Godshill.

In the deeply pockmarked gravelled car park at the top of Abbotswell hill a couple of riders were persuading two splendid, reluctant, black horses into their trailered transport which, with their weight, seemed certain to increase the potholes.

I took a short walk among the undulating woodlands overlooking the sloping landscape below.

As always in such terrain it was necessary to tread gingerly over tree roots.

Bees swarmed among wild blackberry blossoms.

Cattle and ponies congregated in the valley below.

A lone cyclist sped along a footpath

and re-emerged on the path to Deadman Hill on the other side of Roger Penny Way. To think that just four years ago I would take that walk without thinking about it.

My lunch at the pub consisted of steak and ale pie, chips, and peas; Jackie’s was mushroom stroganoff with which she drank Hop House lager. My drink was Ringwood’s Best.

Long haired miniature ponies groped their way across the greens beside Cadnam Lane where

an enterprising hairdresser had given a bug-eyed tree stump an impressive Mohican.

The Head Gardener has a little friend in the form of a juvenile robin that follows her around during the day and has taken to joining us on the patio for a drink in the evening. Jackie, on this occasion, drank Hoegaarden, I drank sparkling water, and Robin drank water from a flower pot saucer.

After this, Jackie and I dined on pepperoni pizza and salad; Robin probably finished off what was clinging to his beak.

The Season Has Begun

This afternoon Jackie and I left the others at home and set off for a trip into the forest., which was becoming rather congested. In fact we didn’t venture much beyond Brockenhurst where

donkeys at the ford were arousing interest

or wandering off into the traffic.

Bikers and

cyclists made their way through the Watersplash. Seconds after I photographed this young lady she was showered with spray from an oncoming car.

A small boy played in the gravel beside the ford, oblivious of the family enjoying ice creams behind him and reflected in the stream.

There were plenty of signs on this warm and sunny afternoon that the holiday season has begun. People of all ages, shapes, and sizes, some complete with dogs, enjoyed splashing about in Highland Water, or simply watching others or conversing in the shade.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb chicken jalfrezi with savoury rice and parathas. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden, Ian Kronenbourg 1664, and Louis water while I drank more of the Pinot Noir.

Emptying The Dog

Jackie and I took a trip into the forest quite early this morning.

At first there were just us and the ponies enjoying the bright sunshine and the crisp air on the undulating serpentine Holmsley Passage. The grey in the gallery above offered a perfect example of a typical pony turning from tearing at the gorse to pose for its portrait.

Another group breakfasted on the bright gold shrubs beside Smugglers Road car park

Like me, the grazing horses had to pick their way around the loose dog shit littering the slopes at this attractive spot. Of the numerous dog walkers who parked their vehicles alongside our Modus, we noticed none carrying a poo bag to take home with them. Pony excreta dries in the sun and crumbles into the soil. The canine variety grows fur.

Before we moved on cyclists were beginning to appear.

We visited another popular car park at Abbots Well, where the landscape offers panoramic views across the moors which can be accessed down well-trodden paths through now naked trees and thick shrubbery. Walkers, with and without dogs, also enjoyed the morning, balmy for the time of year. Here, one poo bag hung from a bowed branch. These are pleasant locations for emptying the dog.

I returned to the car in time to catch Jackie photographing the photographer.

This evening Jackie and I dined on her thick, well filled, onion and mushroom omelette with a nice, firm, tomato; Ian preferred scrambled egg on toast prepared by Becky, who, herself, enjoyed a doggy bag prepared by the Lal Quilla kitchen.

A Rorschach Test

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Our trip to the forest was somewhat delayed this afternoon;

our passage from our front drive was blocked by the rear section of a container lorry.

Close inspection revealed that this vehicle’s path was blocked by what appeared to be an injured cyclist being supported on the road.

In each direction along Christchurch Road traffic was being turned away by police. I ensured my photographs were anonymous, and thought it would seem unseemly to ask what had happened. Given that the invalid was talking and it was an hour and a half before an ambulance arrived, I can only assume that this was not the direst of emergencies.

Jackie and I were eventually able to depart as  police officer, who informed us that the man  now being helped into the ambulance had “taken a tumble off his bike”, raised the barrier for Jackie to drive on in the direction of Lymington. On the outskirts of that town another screaming ambulance, blue lights flashing, heralded one more lengthy tailback necessitating us and many others turning back the way we had come. We took the road down to the harbour.  Eventually we reached Undershore and escaped to comparatively quiet Pilley.

Near Norley Wood the usual variety of miniature ponies grazed in the light of the late afternoon sun.

Against the backdrop of Beaulieu Abbey and its grounds, a solitary cygnet was surrounded by energetic mallards competing for food in the lake’s shallows. The deeper water was frequented by gliding gulls and sedately sailing swans.

Later we enjoyed a blazing sunset over Hatchet Pond. One gentleman photographing an expectant swan and her cygnet had first lured them with enticing comestibles. As he departed, his models floated off to present their own Rorschach tests.

On our return home we joined Elizabeth in the Royal Oak where we dined. After a pint of Razor Back, with the meal I drank a glass of Merlot. The ladies drank Amstell. My meal was a mixed grill; Elizabeth chose venison sausages, mashed potatoes and perfect vegetables; Jackie savoured gammon steak, chips and salad. The food was as good as ever under the current management.

In And Out Of The Water

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Late this afternoon, Jackie drove the three of us to Mudeford.

A cyclist ambled along the shore of the harbour where

kayakers, kite surfers, and sailboarders made good use of the choppy waters and the stiff breeze.

Leisurely kite flying took place on the grassy bank,

from which a mother and daughter dragged their inflated boat, pushed it into the water, scrambled in, and set off, passing a waterlogged rowing boat, paddles waving.

Wet suits and life jackets hung on and beside the van transporting a group of paddle boarders.

Back at home we dined on Jackie’s splendid spicy pasta arrabbiata, followed by bread and butter pudding and cream, with which Elizabeth and I drank DiMarco Primitivo Puglia 2015. The Culinary Queen had finished her Hoegaarden on the patio beforehand.