In Hatchet Pond

On a much hotter day of full sunshine I carried out a dead heading session in the garden before accompanying Jackie to Lidl for a shopping trip, after which we took a forest drive during which,

apart from a few ponies annoying already hot and bothered drivers outside Beaulieu, there was scarcely any sign of life until we reached Hatchet Pond.

A couple of dog owners allowed their barking midgets to harry the unperturbed ponies

before moving off to reflect on the pond.

One pony improvised with a tree as a parasol;

two others, plagued with flies, remained in the open, seeking sustenance from among the stones. Barely a second separated the shots of the grey systematically shaking the persistent diptera from its muzzle; its companion calmly tolerated the irritation.

A young boy, watched by two sunbathers, enjoyed a paddle. He had seen some fish and was attempting to catch one in his hands.

The hedgerows throughout our trip were dotted with clusters of berries, including rowan, hawthorn, and blackberries in various stages of development.

This evening we all dined on Jackie’s tasty fusilli arrabbiata with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Côtes du Rhône Villages.

Village Life

While we sat round the patio table before dinner yesterday Flo took

these photographs of Jackie and Ellie which she e-mailed to me.

This morning my lady attended a coven meeting with her two sisters,

and dropped me at Milford-on-Sea on her way there, collecting me three and a half hours later after I had taken a rather more than a few photographs and caught a touch of the sun.

Most of the time I sat on the same bench seat although I did walk up and down a bit for changes in perspective.

This first gallery contains a woman sporting shorts seemingly plugged into soothing music; another dressed in a striped tent; another carrying co-ordinated bundles; another, green-clad, clasping car keys; and a gentleman opening his boot.

Car drivers were in and out of the parking spots throughout the morning; cycling was another popular form of transport. The individual gentleman in this group was just setting off having uncoupled his steed from the rack in the first image which later accommodated two others locked together. Interestingly it was only the child in the family group who wore a crash helmet.

Other children, such as this one passing the Charity shop, enjoyed other forms of transport, like the buggy contrasting poignantly with the approaching elderly gentleman’s walking trolley.

The Bridge on the Hill is quite a focal point – notice the wall-mounted defibrillator. The woman crouching down outside went on to visit the outlet, the proceeds of which support the village Community Centre.

Anyone using this crossing, as did this infant crocodile, could not miss the shop.

People also gather outside The Village News, described as a traditional newsagent. This group conversed long enough to test the patience of the dog which was quite happy to sit and watch the world go by.

Dogs are in abundance wherever one goes in this area. The one in the van didn’t have to wait long for its owner to return from the Co-op.

Other shop windows speak for themselves. Note the hat held by the bollard outside Timeless Fabrics which had not opened when I first arrived. I wonder whether the cap will be retrieved.

I spent an enjoyably engaging hour talking with friendly David Heath and his equally amenable wife Janet from Colorado. Janet joined us between periods of visiting the local shops.

The couple walked on past the telephone box book exchange.

A number of men were occupied making deliveries; one in this set used a sack barrow; the postman pushed a cart and entered the shops with armfuls.

The most impressive handling of delivery transport was by Ben who I may not have spoken with had it not been for a near miss we both witnessed. One driver came down the hill alongside which we were sitting, drove across the the double lines evident in the picture above, and suddenly turned right without seeming to see a car approaching from Sea Road opposite. Had the driver of that vehicle not made a screeching emergency stop there would have been a collision.

Ben said that this was a very dangerous corner and such situations occurred all the time. He then revealed that he drove the Co-op van. He had started at 4.30 a.m. carrying out a string of deliveries. Although the vehicle was loaded when he collected it, he unloaded alone at each store he visited.

The manoeuvre that he needed, so skilfully, to employ had to be seen to be believed. He turned left past the Co-op; reversed down Sea Road; came forward into the high street and swung round up the hill; with the aplomb to wave as he passed me on his way.

After photographing one of the ubiquitous feral pigeons pecking up scraps

I noticed a relaxed conversation opposite which was completed with a farewell hug.

This evening we dined on chicken marinaded in Nando’s medium piri-piri sauce and Jackie’s flavoursome vegetable rice, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Borodino.

Canine Encounters

I wasted two hours attempting to recover missing pictures to one of my Streets of London series of posts, then gave up and resorted to

which required the comparatively easy Convert to Blocks approach.

The Pharmacy at Milford on Sea shares the forecourt with our GP surgery and the Memorial Hospital. When we arrived there this morning the area was deserted, because neither of these other services is open on a Sunday and heavy overnight rain, according the the staff had kept people away on this first day of British Springtime clocks being put forward.

The consequent acoustics were such that, when I exchanged greetings with a woman emerging from the dispensary as I was approaching, our voices echoed.

From there Jackie drove me to the coast alongside Hurst Road,

where figures were silhouetted atop the shingle bank over which I crunched and listened, against the backdrop of the roar of waves and the mewing of the gulls, to the pebbles responding to my weight by hissing against each other as they repositioned their formation.

Norwegian Boulders form part of the defences against the

sparkling waves constantly

crashing along the rocks and the stepped seafront.

Dog walkers were out in force both there and

at Barton on Sea where a number of canines enjoyed close encounters.

Elizabeth visited this afternoon, bringing more clothes for Ellie donated by Ella and Jack, and staying for pleasant conversation, cups of tea, and a Tunnock’s tea cake..

Later, the rest of us dined on Red Chilli takeaway fare. Jackie’s main choice was Butter Chicken; Flo and Ellie’s, Chicken `Korma; Dillon’s, Chicken Dhansak; and mine, Naga Chilli Chicken. We shared Tikka Panir, Peshwari Naan, Pilau Rice, and Special Fried Rice. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Malbec.

Tingling Toes

Especially during this year’s very hot summer months there really is no point in attempting to lunch at our favourite café at Friars Cliff. This is because the car park on the cliff top is usually packed, indicating that the eatery will be too.

Today, its seemed, would be rather different. No-one but hardened dog-walkers would venture down to the sand.

And so, apart from scavenging crows,

and one sole shivering individual,

it proved to be.

Uninviting waves crashed on rocks and shingle.

One little baby probably left for home with extra-tingling toes.

After our usual big breakfasts at the Beach Hut Café we returned home warm and comfortable and opened the door to a cold house.

The boiler had ceased functioning.

Fortunately I stuck my nose in a frightening manual and pressed a few buttons which got it going again. Unfortunately that didn’t last long, so I will have to call our heating engineer tomorrow. We had already booked the annual service about ten days ago. The earliest date he could manage is 19th January. So we will see.

Now we all have tingling toes.

Despite her efforts to prove the contrary Jackie is still not well enough to attend a social evening hosted by our neighbours Gordon and Chrissie. I therefore went on my own and spent part of an enjoyable gathering meeting many neighbours; listening to the piano playing of Ben Barr; drinking Merlot and eating plentiful snacks before returning early to check on my wife.

Rhinefield Ornamental Drive

We had intended to photograph Beechern wood on our forest drive today. This has been one of our regular trips.

It was a shock to find a locked gate across the road forbidding access to non-members of the Caravan Site at the far end. The woman approaching the Forestry Commission gate had left the camper van and opened it for the driver. Who, I wondered, owned the road from which I have produced many photographs of woodland, ponies, and Ober Water.

We diverted to Whitemoor Pond, over which stretches this

branch with flaking bark;

a number of trees were reflected on the shimmering surface

on which fallen leaves float above the clearly visible bed.

From there we drove on to the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive along which I took

a short walk amongst others along the now soggy footpath.

Although it wasn’t at all cold, most were wrapped up, and this gentleman clearly need to raise his collar.

This friendly family were very pleased with this photograph showing their dog really straining at the leash. I could not resist asking who was taking who for a walk.

Fallen leaves clustered at the roots of trees,

even of long-dead stumps.

At Wimbledon College, we were once taught by an art master who told us that trees were never just brown. These trunks were obviously what he meant.

We are now recognising so many fallen giants in the forest that we are able to follow their journey back to the soil from which they sprung. We passed this one a few years ago when it had just been snapped by fierce winds and quickly sawn and removed from the road. Its constituents will probably outlive ours.

Over recent months my library has been taken over by items destined for charity shops and the Council Recycling Depot. This has been a losing battle as further goods have appeared as fast as we declutter – one of the consequences of an increased household with many relatives being keen to bring gifts. Now Christmas items are being added at a rate of knots. This afternoon Jackie and I cleared and organised the space so that I can once again reach individual volumes.

This evening we dined on tasty fish cakes: haddock for me, cod for Jackie, and salmon for Flo; crunchy carrots and tender cauliflower leaves; the Culinary Queen’s piquant cauliflower cheese and colourful savoury rice, accompanied by the same beverages as yesterday.

Lymington Lockdown Relaxed

Although Jackie remembers one birthday on which it snowed, most of her birthdays, like today, have lived up to the epithet ‘flaming June’. She drove me into Lymington, left me there for an agreed 90 minutes, visited a garden centre, then returned to pick me up.

There I purchased a birthday card (of a pop-up owl she had the pleasure of making up herself) and a vase as the first celebratory tokens. I then walked down the length of the High Street and back up clicking away.

Individual captions can be found with each image when accessing the gallery by clicking on any one.

Regular readers will have noticed the absence of Aaron and his crew who have been very busy. This afternoon he came to carry away a vast backlog of garden refuse and to arrange to make regular visits again.

When we told him the story of the recent attempt to wreck the flower bed by being tossed into it he expressed suitable guilt at having left us for a while. This was, of course, all in good spirit. The return is a great relief.

We enjoyed a pleasant couple of hours this afternoon with Helen and Bill, who visited with presents.

This evening we met Becky and Ian at Lal Quilla, where we dined for the first time for months. It was a very pleasant surprise for Jackie, and involved more presents and delightful conversation. After poppadom starters my main course was Taba Shaslick Jalfrezi. We shared onion bahjis, mushroom and pilau rice, and plain paratha. Kingfisher and Diet Coke were the chosen beverages.

The Battle Of Longslade Bottom

After another wet morning I made a set of A4 prints of his last session on our roof for Barry, then scanned the next five of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to ‘Little Dorrit’.

In ‘The cloudy line of mules hastily tied to rings in the wall’, our vision is certainly clouded.

With ‘He found a lady of a quality superior to his highest expectations’, both author and artist have the tongues firmly in their cheeks.

‘As they wound down the rugged way, she more than once looked round’, depicts the slender limbs of these beasts of burden. The circle of the sun balances the picture nicely.

There is a wealth of period detail in ‘I write to you from my own room at Venice’.

‘To the winds with the family credit!’, cried the old man’, displaying far more animation than we have seen before.

Later this afternoon the weather brightened and we took a drive to Longslade Bottom, a favourite venue for

walkers and frolicking dogs.

The stream at the bottom of the slope is a Winterbourne – only flowing in winter.

Keep an eye on the young woman with two children beginning to make her way back up the slope.

Ponies quietly crop grass and crows noisily gather in the treetops.

As I ambled down the slope, who should I pass but the woman, now struggling with the two children, who still managed to find the energy to respond to my greeting.

Can anyone spot the changes in the writhing burdens?

Having reached their vehicle the battle to install the children inside it continued against a threatening sky to the shrieks of “I don’t want to”.

Particularly having watched so many children and dogs on these slopes, I must mention that the piles of canine excrement which I needed to avoid rivalled those of the ponies. Do the dog owners have any idea of the danger that what they leave to fester among the grass presents to children? (Anyone who doubts this should read John Knifton’s comment below).

This evening we dined on Jackie’s tasty chicken and vegetable stewp, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Macon vin de Bourgogne 2019.

Fishing The Shallows

On a dank-dull afternoon we drove to Milford on Sea pharmacy for a repeat prescription, with a loop round Keyhaven’s Saltgrass Lane on our return home.

Occasional walkers, like this couple looking across the Solent to the Isle of Wight and The Needles, made their way along the sparsely populated clifftop promenade.

We followed a steady jogger along Saltgrass Lane until we paused to photograph walkers and dogs on the Hurst spit alongside which idle sail boats were moored.

Curlews and turnstones (I am grateful to Quercus for identifying the latter in his comment) fished the shallows;

an elegant swan sailed among resting gulls,

one of which passed the time of day with a trailing cygnet.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s especially spicy pork paprika; boiled potatoes; crunchy carrots; and tender runner beans, followed by aromatic rice pudding laced with a dollop of strawberry jam with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Malbec.

Silhouettes At Sunset

We set out for a drive in the forest an hour before sunset.

There were a number of people out riding, such as this young lady on Barrows Lane. They were usually in no particular hurry. Neither were we.

As I emerged from the Modus high on Holmsley Passage, a dog in a Land Rover fixed me with its baleful beady eye.

A number of dog walkers, like this woman with her pair, were also taking the air.

A couple of motor cyclists followed a fast moving car, the driver of which did his best to splash me as he sped past. Fortunately I had anticipated the shower and (with poetic licence) nipped over the bank in the foreground.

The late sun burnished both landscape and ponies. The second black and white subject stretched its neck whilst emitting an extended whinnying.

Alongside Bisterne Close a group of ponies seemed intent on stripping the holly branches until, with one accord, they trooped off into the woodland and out of sight.

We just had time to catch

sunset at Barton on Sea where groups of well distanced visitors provided me with a choice of silhouettes. A young family played cricket on the green. The ball was struck in my direction, my reflexes kicked in, and I bent at the knees in an attempt to scoop it up. I couldn’t get down far enough and had to plead dodgy pins. My pride hurt the most.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s savoury omelette-topped rice served with a quartet of prawn preparations, namely salt and pepper, hot and spicy, tempura, and skewered in a skein of shredded potato. The Culinary Queen and I both drank Greco di Tufo 2019, a most mellow Italian white from Lidl.

All My Ducks In A Row

On a bright, fresh, and crisp morning we took a drive into the forest. Slanting sunshine set the thawing frost glistening and lengthened shadows.

We tried a visit to Tanner’s Lane. This meant driving between rows of parked vehicles with no turning space. I walked while Jackie turned back.

We had imagined this little hidden beach would be safe enough. No such luck.

This was the only group keeping some distance from others on the sand and shingle.

There were other dogs, one in the water with three hardy humans.

I was not inclined to linger.

We continued to Sowley Lane where I was next decanted.

Some oak leaves dallied on gnarled limbs; others, grounded, glistened with dew drops; holly prickles had broken one’s fall.

Two men in a boat discussed their best fishing spot.

We stopped for a look at Buckler’s Hard,

where a robin drew our attention to the parking restrictions.

As we passed Beaulieu Mill Pond I spotted a pair of long necked log peacocks on the far bank.

Jackie parked and I walked back past the border of reeds to photograph them.

On the way there I managed to get all my ducks in a row.

Down a bank along Lymington Road a solitary donkey enjoyed a breakfast of spiky thistles.

Ponies preferred grass

or languorous cogitation of the thawing frost in the hazy sunshine.

In her Modus Jackie aroused the attention of an inquisitive field horse which she photographed along with

golden silver birches and glistening white terrain.

This evening we dined on Mr Chan’s Hordle Chinese Take Away’s fine fare with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Coonawarra which involved opening another bottle.