Le Déjeuner Sur L’herbe

I spent the whole morning foiling a suspected banking scam. This involved several phone calls, listening to long stretches of Muzak, and struggling with a Scots accent on a bad line.

Don’t ask. I couldn’t bear to go through it again.

This afternoon I reeled up the Gazebo Path to join Jackie who had spent the day so far eliminating fungus from the heuchera border in the Rose Garden.

The first picture shows the infested stems which I helped to bag up – the trug beside these contains the tiny rescued root stumps; the second shows Jackie applying liquid fungicide to the soil from which the plants have been removed; the third shows the rest of the border which will need to be similarly treated; and the last the planted stubs which should regenerate quite quickly.

It was truly the best part of a day for repelling pests.

While I sat by my desk with my mobile phone attached to my ear I had plenty of time to gaze at clematis Mrs N. Thompson through the window. The first of these pictures focusses on her. The other two are of what she looks like outside.

Later in the afternoon, when I was feeling less shell-shocked, we visited Otter Nurseries for some more fungicide and continued on a drive into the forest.

Just outside Brockenhurst a pair of foals trotted across the road and, ignoring another youngster, scampered across the heath. Where there are ponies you will usually find attendant crows.

We stopped at Puttles Bridge where Jackie parked the car and I wandered about around Ober Water with the camera.

As will be seen by the peaty water and the shallow bed this stream, albeit a bit fuller now, must have been quite dry during our absence. Reflections of trees and skies merged with the colours of the pebbles beneath. Dog roses abounded. The conversation with the very friendly young couple really cheered me up.

The last three pictures feature a group who put us in mind of Edouard Manet’s “Déjeurner sur l’herbe, except that all the women were appropriately clad and there were no fully dressed gentlemen in the scene.

While waiting in the car park Jackie watched the light moving to where she wanted it for this picture.

This evening we dined on meaty, spicy, pizza with Jackie’s mixed pasta cheese, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Malbec.

Disaster Averted

More light rain overnight ceased early this morning. The day remained overcast and dry.

This afternoon my Chauffeuse drove me into the forest where I wandered around Hatchet Moor for a while. From the car park I walked down to one of the arms of the lake

and photographed two ponies and a foal on the far side. Jackie photographed me doing so and also produced this shot of a gull photobombing the scene.

I was able to walk over steeply undulating dry terrain, much of which would normally be filled with water. This gave me access to shrubbery festooned with

dog roses, and facilitated a closer look at

water lilies and swans.

Two foals were among an assorted group of ponies in a field at East End. One couldn’t be bothered to rise to its feet when I arrived. The other, recumbent in the grass beside its mother, did stir its stumps, nuzzled the mare, and made an unsuccessful attempt to acquire more nourishment before eventually settling for a good scratch.

The fact that Jackie was parked on the other side of the narrow adjacent lane probably averted a disaster. These two friendly boys, one carrying a small terrier, had been accompanied by a Labrador cross which shot past me, from beneath the stile beside which I stood, across the road. Another vehicle, coming down the hill, slowed in preparation for passing our Modus, otherwise it is difficult to see how the driver could have avoided a canine collision.

Back at home Jackie tidied the Wisteria Arbour and I emptied the refuse into the compost bin.

She also photographed the new obelisk she had inserted into the Dragon Bed to support the rampant Polish Spirit clematis.

Nugget, of course, put in an immediate appearance. The second picture presents “Where’s Nugget?” (80)

This evening we dined on Jackie’s tasty mixed grill casserole, creamy mashed potato; and carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli al dente, with which she drank Becks and I started on another bottle of the Carles.

Mare’s Tails

On the train yesterday, with Kenneth O. Morgan’s ‘The Twentieth Century’, I finished reading ‘The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain’ in the 1992 edition.  Ten university historians have each contributed a section in their particular field, from Roman times to 1991.  Written for the layperson it does neverless assume a certain amount of prior knowledge, the lack of which caused me to make some assumptions.  It is an excellent overview of 2,000 years of history, well written, and lavishly illustrated.  Each separate piece flows into the next, quite seamlessly.  It provided interesting revision for periods I know a bit about, and was informative about those I didn’t.

I must confess to having been relieved at getting to the end.  Not because the reading wasn’t pleasing, but because it will considerably lighten my bag on my train trips.  It is quite a big book, but its size was not the reason for its weight.  The illustrations are interspersed with the text.  This requires a heavy glossy paper throughout.  I much prefer it this way.  The alternative is to cluster the illustrations at two or three arbitrary places, so you are often perusing pictures the subject of which you have not yet encountered.

As we progressed through the second millennium the illustrations changed in nature and subject. Photographs of artefacts provided most of the early ones.  With the advent of the possibility of using a contemporary camera, people and events came into focus.  Written records enabled the writers to go further than when facilitated mostly by archeological finds.  From the eighteenth century onwards there was less of an emphasis on royalty and more on the politics of the people.  Given its publication date it was rather salutory to see the first fifty years of my life confined to history.

I enjoyed the book.  It was another that I had inherited from my late friend Ann.

Corfe Castle

A trip to Corfe Castle in Dorset continued the historical theme.  Certainly in situ during the time of King William I, it was said to be the scene of the assassination of King Edward in 978.  Described in the twelfth century as the most secure castle in England, it remained impregnable until, during the Civil War, Lady Bankes’s stout resistance to the Roundhead siege was ended by the treachery of one of her own soldiers who admitted Cromwell’s men during the night. Corfe Castle 3 It was then blown up by Captain Hughes’s sappers in 1646, leaving us with a dramatic skyline on a natural mound the outer perimeter of which has been eroded by the action of two rivers. From the National Trust car park Jackie andI followed a path along the site of the moat tracked by the Corfe River. Corfe Castle 2 Through gaps in the trees we could see the impressive remains that had survived the explosion.  Pieces of ‘tumble’, as were termed those stones falling down the hill, mingled with the residue still standing.

Corfe Castle valerianBridgeInside the castle, through the entrance and across the access bridge, we could see the remains of walls sprouting valerian and accommodating dog roses. Dog roses Jackdaws trotted about the ramparts, and buzzards circled overhead. Stocks Just past the gateway sat a pair of stocks.  I managed to climb most of the way to the top of the keep, which was scary.  There was an observation platform from which people looked down over the valley and the sloping sides of the mound.  Observation platformAlthough I did unwittingly actually reach the same level as that, I chickened out of turning the corner that would have led me to it.  Jackie, who had done this trip with her sisters at the weekend, had the good sense to sit on a bench and await my descent.

Corfe Castle in landscape

Venturing to look over almost any wall gave one a good, vertiginous, view of whatever lay beneath.

Houses beneath castle walls

Having had our fill of the ruins we wandered into the picturesque stone village of Corfe which is dominated by its castle.

Corfe & its castle

Mare's tailsOn the way home we took a diversion to Sway Road in Brockenhurst to look at the outside of a railway cottage we had seen on the internet.  The house and its neighbour shared a small private track accessed by a cattle grid.  This should have led us to expect the banks to be completely devoid of mares’ tails.  We were to be disappointed.  There was a widespread proliferation of the botanical version.  These are invasive deep-rooted weeds with fast growing underground stems that may penetrate as deep as 7 ft, and have been doing so since the time of the dinosaurs.  This pernicious plant is extremely difficult to eradicate.  Ground elder, which took me sixteen years to banish from Lindum House, is a pussy cat in comparison.Cottage by railway

After this investigation, we drove straight through Sway and carefully entered the car park of The Plough at Tiptoe, where we had wonderful meals.The Plough  Mine was a mixed grill cooked to perfection, with the steak medium rare as I had asked for, so large as to make it impossible for me to contemplate a sweet, and to earn me the admiration of the barmaid for actually finishing it. Mixed grill Jackie was equally impressed with her ham and mushroom tagliatelli and the creme brûlée she did manage to eat.  She drank Becks and I drank Doom Bar.

The Wilderness

Our last diversion was to Barton on Sea where we had a look at The Wilderness, another house from the internet. This was in a secluded position near Barton Common, but has been sold subject to contract.

The Nuthatch

Jackie's side gardenBack down to earth after yesterday’s Mottisfont display, we were nevertheless delighted to note the progression of Jackie’s south side garden, begun some time after the kitchen one. Verbena and marigolds With few exceptions, her plants are benefitting from her love and attention, and the warmer weather.

Jackie was running out of certain specific items of bird food.  They now take precedence over shopping for human nutriment.  So we had to go to In-eXcess near Poulner on the A31 for replenishments.  While she bought the avian fodder and sat with her newspaper in the establishment’s cafe waiting for me, I walked a loop taking in Hangersley, Linford, and Shobley.  Horses in pastureThis consisted of sometimes steeply undulating lanes, harbouring idyllic homes, and offering views of sweeping woodland and hillside pasturage.  Bramble blossomThe thick hedgerows are decked with dog rose, bramble blossom, and honeysuckle, attracting much insect life.

Honeysuckle hedgerow

As I vainly wafted my ordnance survey map and watched horses switching their tails, I discovered why they are equipped with fly sheets.

margritti-this-is-not-a-pipeThe Surrealist artist Rene Magritte’s 1929 painting, ‘The Treachery of Images’ is of a pipe beneath which is the phrase ‘this is not a pipe’.  The philosopher was correct.  It was not actually a pipe, but the image of one.

Hoverfly on dogroseSimilarly, the insect that alighted on the dog rose, was not what it looks like.  This was a harmless individual that masquerades as something else much more harmful, no doubt to scare off the opposition.  Not a bee, not a wasp, it was a hoverfly.

Whilst she was preparing our dinner of delicious sausage, bacon, and liver casserole, Jackie was startled by a thud from outside, as of a bird hitting glass.  Nuthatch on matShe looked outside and saw a nuthatch on the welcome mat, with  metaphoric stars in a speech bubble above its dazed head.  It was then her turn to bang on a window as she came round outside the sitting room and I handed her the camera. Nuthatch on blind On her return her little friend had recovered sufficiently to fly, but was disoriented enough to be perched at the top of the kitchen window blind.  I don’t think it still had limited vision.  It soon disappeared.

The aforementioned casserole was enjoyed with potato, carrot and swede mash; cauliflower; and, by me, the last of the Terres de Galets.