Inquisitive Chicks

Rabbits are like birds. At least in our garden they are. Jackie can watch them through the windows for ages. The minute I pick up a camera they flit or scuttle off, as did our early little bunny visitor.

As will be seen from today’s photographs, the sun popped in and out of the clouds. The morning was spent driving to and from Nuffield Hospital at Chandlers Ford, for Jackie’s pre-op tests on her left knee.

Jackie pruning

This afternoon I sprayed weed-killer on various paths and the head gardener carried out much pruning. My contribution to the latter was to gather up the cuttings and place them on burning or compost heaps.

Reflections on parked cars

I took a short walk to the postbox alongside the disused Telephone Box that can be seen reflected among the trees on the cars that are now regularly parked in front of it.

Dahlias and poppy

As our earlier poppies die down, small dahlias,

Poppy 1Poppy 2

and several larger, later, varieties of poppy spring up.

Day lilies

Day lilies have been around for a while now.

Clematis Marie Boisselot, pansies, foxgloves

The clematis Marie Boisselet resists being trained to climb an obelisk, and trails beneath it.

The starling parents still squawk off when we approach the kitchen corner, but their offspring do not yet appear to have learned fear. Starling 1

Starling 2Starling 3

They have become quite inquisitive. Their Mum and Dad have made rather a mess of the woodwork which reveals earlier paintwork. We do know a certain amount of refurbishment is required.

A bag of still crisp prawn crackers formed the starters for what, this evening, was a genuine fusion dinner. These were left over from the Chinese takeaway set meal for two that we had enjoyed two days ago. They always give you far more than is necessary. They also give you larger quantities of the varied dishes than you can eat. Sweet and sour chicken, crispy beef, chicken and black bean sauce, beef with ginger and spring onion, and savoury rice, therefore, filled one third of our plates; left-over mashed potato, green beans, and cauliflower from last might, occupied another; and succulent fillet steaks the third. I employed the microwave and Jackie applied the frying pan. I really should have photographed this delicious melange. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, whilst I imbibed.Casillero del Diablo cabernet sauvignon reserva 2013.

Not Fit For Purpose

Lonicera by patioYesterday, Jackie tackled a section of lonicera forcing its way through a piece of matting fencing erected by our predecessor. Because this invasive shrub was sandwiched between our side and a garage it had nowhere to go save through our flimsy fence. It was also very difficult to access. She did rather well, I thought. The matting suffered a bit.
Support for golden archesDay liliesThis morning the head gardener acted upon her conviction that my golden arches were not fit for purpose, and provided them with strengthening support. Dancing either side of the new structure, yet another variety of day lily, of a rich, red hue, has emerged into the light.
Jackie had cleared the entrance to the kitchen garden. Kitchen gardenKitchen garden 2There remained, however, a daunting amount of unwanted undergrowth choking and concealing what there is of interest in there. Clearance of this was the task I embarked upon today. I set about the brambles, and the brambles set about my new gardening gloves. We have decided to turn it into a rose garden, which, coincidentally, is what I eventually did with one of the vegetable patches in Newark.
There are some very attractive and established low box hedges which we will retain, along with several gooseberry bushes, at least two apple trees, and various herbs. Who knows what else might come to light.
This afternoon we were visited by Vicki and Barrie Haynes, friends of my sister Jacqueline and blogging friends of mine. We have got to know each other through WordPress, but had not met until today. The afternoon was so successful that we extended the meeting until the evening and all dined at The Jarna. Our friends enjoyed the establishment, the food, and the service as much as we do.

The Gauntlet

Scarlet PimpernelWhen I read Baroness Orczy’s timeless novel, ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’, I had a vague idea that this was a flower, but didn’t know what it looked like. We have a lovely little orange weed, rather like a forget-me-not in size, that crops up all over the garden. I haven’t been digging it up, because I find it so attractive. I was rather pleased, then, when, this morning, the head gardener informed me that this was scarlet pimpernel.
PoppyNasturtiumDifferent coloured poppies continue to bloom, if only for a day.
Antirrhinums and pelargoniumWe also have nasturtiums, to which snails seem rather partial.
Different hued antirrhinums manage to hold their own with strident pelargoniums.
In the last of today’s plant photographs we have pilosella aurantiaca, otherwise known as orange hawkweed, a plant that in some parts of America and Australia is considered as an invasive species.
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Today I completed the clearance of the right hand side of the front driveway that Jackie had begun yesterday. I uprooted the last of the brambles and pruned most of the shrubs very severely, revealing more flowers, such as the day lilies. Jackie, who embellished the wall with a window box, assures me the heavily pruned growth will burgeon again next year. I certainly didn’t rival her treatment of the mahonia.
Painstakingly, I conveyed to a convolvulus that was making its way up an ornamental cherry tree that its presence was no longer required. Maybe I should have waited for a flower. It may have been a morning glory. I tied up the white rose that had Front driveGardening gloveClematistaken to the ground in its bid to escape the other thorny rambler, which has torn holes in the fingers of my gardening gloves and left its mark on those inside.
A new pair, or at least the right hand gauntlet may be in order.
An attractive clematis now quivers in the breeze above the roses on the archway through to the front garden.
Fortunately, our guests of yesterday evening left enough of Jackie’s delicious beef casserole for us to finish it today. Strawberries and ice cream were to follow. I drank some Yellow Tail shiraz 2013, also courtesy of last night.

Let There Be Light

Last night, while just a few of us were still awake and beginning to tidy the kitchen, the lights went out. Quick as a flash, a still lively Poppy, dashed upstairs crying “I’ll get my Daddy. He’ll fix it.” She woke him. He said he’d deal with it in the morning.

True to his word, he did. Except that it took most of the day.

There are a lot of light switches and individual bulbs that needed to be checked, with constant trips to and from the fuse box in the hall. All were in good working order. Eventually our son discovered that the problem had arisen somewhere in the lights around the outside of the back of the house. He thought he would try the switch first. This entailed shopping at Christchurch for a replacement.

There was nothing wrong with the switch.

Matthew then examined and tested all the lights. There was nothing wrong with them. Observant readers will notice that we still have geraniums in hanging baskets.

The next possibility was the wiring between the switch inside the house and the lights outside. Eureka! The expert pointed out that the live wire had been exposed and water had dripped from this to the uncovered earth below. We have hardly ever used these lights, but did so last night because some our visitors had parked on the back drive.

Early this evening Ian, Jackie, and I repaired to The Royal Oak for a drink, some time later to be joined by Matthew, Becky, Tess, and Poppy who had visited the Byron Road Christmas lights. Having drunk Razor Back there, I, as did Tess, abstained from alcohol with dinner, which consisted of Jackie’s splendid lamb jalfrezi with savoury rice. The others drank Senza Tempo Pino Grigio.

Isle Of Wight Tomatoes

Early this morning the crow, having adopted the back of the bench as its new taking off strip, flew directly onto the top of the bird feeder, but didn’t stay. It can only scavenge from a tray in the construction, not the closed containers. Jackie is wise to that, so isn’t filling it at the moment. The blackbird, with her partner perching guard on the snake bark tree,  continues to sit on her eggs.Garden to kitchen garden entrance It is now possible to see through the entrance to the kitchen garden from some distance away. Path before clearancePath before clearance 2Pictured here are two sides of a path surrounding an oval flower bed at the far end of the garden, as they appeared at the beginning of the day. They are in there somewhere. It was my task to begin restoring them to their former glory, whilst Jackie continued transforming the central gravelled walkway. Here, the brambles were rampant and well established. A certain amount of eradication of them from the beds was required. Bloodsucker on day lilyThis revealed more hidden plants, like the day lilies, the colour of one of which seems to have confused a bloodsucking insect into thinking it was clamped on to my forearm.Central path Oval path intermediate satgeBamboo coming through pathWith some painstaking sifting of earth and gravel Jackie completed the central path today. I, on the other hand, although making a good impact on the left hand side and far end of the ovoid ring, came to an abrupt halt when I encountered the bamboo. A number of strong stems had penetrated the path and defied my fork. That was a battle I was prepared to fight another day. It had taken three months completely to eradicate a clump of the insidious roots of this grass at The Firs, so I wanted to be fresh for the job. Mañana.
On a sunny day such as this, the light streaming through the kitchen windows at lunchtime is stunning. Placed at random at the end of the table when preparing it for the food were a vase of tulips Shelly had given Jackie, an accident pot containing alliums and a petunia,   and a bowl of tomatoes. Pots on kitchen table These tomatoes were a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours. And they were delicious. Jackie had purchased them at Setley Ridge Farm Shop, to which a couple from the Isle of Wight travel weekly to supply them. Apparently supermarkets cannot sell them because they are not uniform in size, redness, and rotundity.
We received a very warm welcome from the family at The Family House Chinese restaurant in Totton where we dined this evening on the usual good food and Tsing Tao beer. SunsetThe streaks in the sky on our way home were of the equally warmest hues.

The Rose

House to letBecky and Ian were today due to view a house to rent in Oving in West Sussex.  After an early lunch Jackie and I drove out there to surprise them with our moral support.  We arrived half an hour before the appointment time.  Jackie waited in the car whilst I had a wander around Oving, a pretty village surrounded by cornfields.Cornfield

The Gribble InnI discovered that the village shop constituted a bar of The Gribble Inn.The Gribble Shop  After the viewing we repaired to the inn where we whiled away the rest of the afternoon discussing the pros and cons of the property.  It was a big plus that this was the only place so far where Scooby, their dog, would be acceptable.  The couple will sleep on the decision about whether they will get to sleep inside the house.

The weather was still hot enough to keep us inside the pub. The Gribble shop inside From the windows we could could see the very pleasant garden and outside seating area. The Gribble Inn garden They specialised in those beers inviting drunken Spoonerisms, like Plucking Pheasant and Fuzzy Duck.  The locals were disgusted when I showed a distinct lack of inebriation when ordering the Pheasant which wasn’t available anyway.

Just in time for their opening, we drove in convoy to The Magna restaurant in Bognor Regis.Please do not park here  We parked in a side street where we were rather amused by what seemed to be a blatant disregard for a set of No Parking notices, two of which were propped up against the offending vehicle.  Magna restaurantAlthough it was once a regular venue of Jackie’s, I have only been to the Magna a couple of times before.  Our first arrival had caused us some confusion in trying to locate it.  This is because she was convinced it was called The Rose.  When she was given a complimentary red rose at the end of the meal she realised the reason for the misnomer.  Two years on from our last visit, she and Becky were given the customary red roses.

The meal was good.  Cobra, Bangla, and Diet Coke were drunk.  I slept through most of the journey home.  Fortunately Jackie stayed awake.