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.

The Skate Park

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Today was another featuring sunny intervals in cloudy skies. I began with a stroll round the garden where the latest opening rhododendron is progressing well.

Becky and Ian having stayed over, we all lunched at the Beachcomber in Barton on Sea.

The Solent’s waves were choppy; the Isle of Wight and The Needles were swathed in haze;

crows struggled against the blustery wind on the clifftop, and airborne alongside gulls.

This afternoon we took a trip to New Milton where Ian and I visited a solicitor for an executorship matter, while the ladies went shopping. Afterwards I sat on a bench in the Skate Park while Ian hunted for the shoppers.

Skate Park

Black- headed gulls scavenged on the grass against the backdrop of the distant mural;

a couple of young lads experimented with skateboards, until school was out when others joined them on bicycles.

This evening, before Becky and Ian returned home, we all dined on Jackie’s splendid beef pie, crunchy carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli, and creamy mashed potato. Becky and I drank more of the Malbec, Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and Ian, Peroni.

 

Exercising Choices

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I undertook some minimal tidying in the garden this morning. Here are a few photographs of how it looks at the moment:

Daffodils

Many more daffodils are in bloom, including those in tubs and window boxes,

Weeping Birch Bed

and those in beds like the Weeping Birch one

Hellebore

which also has its share of hellebores.

Raindrops on primulas

Raindrops settled still on such as these primulas that survived the snow.

We have many blooming camellias. The shady path is bordered by them.

It could be considered mandatory that a tour of our area should include Big Breakfasts at The Beach Hut Café on

Friar’s Cliff Promenade.

So it was today. Jackie brunched on the marginally more moderate Friar’s Breakfast while Flo, Dillon, and I all went for the Big one.

A number of people were out exercising their dogs;

 others walked, jogged, or cycled.

Efforts at promoting fitness in Mudeford, for these two jet-skiers at least, were rather more strenuous.

Others basked in the sunshine or floated on the wing.

The usual fishing paraphernalia lay in tidy heaps on the quay.

Flags flapped in fortuitously reflective surfaces.

Our last visit was to Highcliffe Castle around which the young people wandered while I peered down the steps to the beach. This set has replaced the zig-zag sloping route used on 6th January 2016, now considered unsafe.

For our dinner the evening, Jackie produced her piquant cauliflower cheese with smoked haddock fish cakes and runner beans. Small portions were in order after our brunch. Flo’s favourite pudding, that gets her all of a quiver, is Grannie’s rice pudding with squirty cream. Naturally, this was served today. I finished the Navarra, and the young couple drank different soft drinks.