Just A Week Old

Given that we understood that this morning’s chill wind and cold bright sunshine was likely to cede to strong showers for the rest of the day, we set off for a forest drive just after 8 a.m. and turned on the windscreen wipers in a darkened air two hours later as we were driving home.

Groups of ponies gathered around Smuggler’s Road Car Park basking and reflecting in the sunlight,

which brightened the sand pit in the Rockford Common landscape. The stream at Ibsley ford rippled past a recently broken tree on its banks, where blossom bejewelled a shadow-striated wall.

Further along the road donkeys wandered freely along the tarmac.

The sharp wind swivelled a weather vane seen between two houses.

At the bottom of Frogham Hill we encountered our first donkey mother and foal,

somewhat older than its cousins seen at the top, which according to a resident I engaged in conversation, were just a week old..

Someone had categorised potholes at a road junction in Crow,

This afternoon I watched the Women’s Six Nations rugby matches between France and Ireland and between Scotland and Wales.

This evening we all dined on Jackie’s flavoursome savoury rice and spare ribs in hoisin sauce, with which I drank more of the Shiraz.


We have enjoyed excellent, efficient, and smooth on line repeat prescription service from our local pharmacy adjacent to our GP surgery for a good number of years. Until some weeks ago all changed. There were more people than ever working in the background behind the counter; apparent computer problems; missing prescriptions; people in queues having been told to come back next day – one man 3 days running; a generally harassed atmosphere. I was never inconvenienced myself, except for having queued behind the unhappy people, when previously queueing had been rare; Jackie had suffered from the “try again tomorrow” syndrome, as had someone else in the family – regularly.

When we visited this morning I asked to speak to the person in charge to ask about what was going wrong. I would have had to drive 45 minutes away to do this because that is where the new owner was now based. Our independent company had been taken over by another of that ilk.

My conversation with staff was most amenable and I was given the new owner’s address. They would welcome a complaint from me. Bigger is clearly not better.

Today’s weather was similar to yesterday’s. That is generally overcast until we returned home from a late afternoon forest drive when the sun put in an appearance for the evening.

A tractor working over a field of many pheasants sent the birds scattering across Sowley Lane.

Along St Leonard’s Road a group of donkeys foraged above and within a dry ditch.

One of two foals, having untangled itself from a barbed wire fence crossed to the other side of the road;

the other, probably quite surprised by the presence of a bus we have never seen here before, allowed the vehicle to pass.

From the car, Jackie photographed honeysuckle in the hedgerow and the younger foal suckling.

I contributed a stem of valerian growing from the fourteenth century stone wall of St Leonard’s Grange and a cluster of conkers soon to fall.

This evening we all dined on succulent roast chicken; sage and onion stuffing; boiled new potatoes; crunchy carrots and cauliflower with which Jackie drank Lambrusco and I drank Mas d’Anglade Montpeyroux 2018.

They Summed Up The Dismal Day

As the rain increased and the wind began building up to this evening’s expected return of the gales, we took the usual precautionary protective garden measures.

After lunch Jackie and I then embarked upon a damp forest drive

where we thought holidaymakers like soggy cyclists and drivers guided by headlights may have regretted their choice of dates, and

rows of damp donkeys huddled along hedgerows of Bull Hill seeking shelter where they could summed up the dismal day.

This evening we all dined on succulent roast pork with crispy crackling; crisp roast potatoes; sage and onion stuffing; crunchy carrots; firm cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli, with meaty gravy and apple sauce with which Jackie drank Zesty and I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon.

(I forgot to post this last night)

How To Get Rid Of Dandelions

I began the last push on clearing the two rooms Nick is currently working on together at 4 a.m. this morning. These are the new sitting room and our bedroom upstairs.

Our friendly decorator began prepping before Jackie and I took a mid-morning forest drive.

A framed crocheted Queen welcomes visitors to St. Mark’s Church, Pennington.

We travelled along the very narrow Pauls Lane on our way to Pitmore Lane

alongside which I photographed the landscape with horses.

Further along we encountered a group of donkeys and their foals which

attracted a number of other photographers including this Frenchwoman. I quipped that these donkeys would become very familiar with the camera, and realised that her husband did not understand me. He told me so in English and followed in his own tongue which I didn’t understand. When he explained this to his wife I suddenly tuned into his French accent and replied, haltingly, in his own language. The three of us then spoke about how difficult it is to speak in another language for the first two or three days of a visit. The husband told me that they kept two donkeys at home.

One of the foals appears to have been attempting to emulate the stereotypical female Argentine tango dancer. Tossing its head around, scratching against the stiff grass, first on its feet, then sinking to the ground and rolling its muzzle close to the ground, the little animal failed to grasp the secret of how to get rid of dandelions.

By this afternoon Nick had made considerable progress and will begin applying paint tomorrow.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s excellent chicken korma and various leftovers from last night’s Red Chilli takeaway, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden, Ian drank Cobra, and I finished the Bordeaux.

Photographing Forest Fauna

From late morning Jackie drove our visitors and me around the forest. De had walked down to the coast at Milford where we joined her.

Jan photographed De seated beneath an umbrella, where their daughter was joined first by her father and then by her mother.

Choppy waves threw up creamy spray before sliding up and slipping back down the crunching shingle beach.

The trio walked along the clifftop promenade and down the steps toe the sea level.

Pannage pigs at Pilley snuffled and snorted their way around the verges.

We stopped for a drink at the Fleur de Lys, to find that it had been under new management for just a week. This prompted us to book a table for this evening.

Jan photographed and conversed with donkeys beside Beaulieu Lake, the banks of which

a preening swan and cygnets shared with gulls,

while one of the young swans reflected on the surface over which a crow took to the air.

At East Boldre we stepped out to photograph ponies casting shadows as the sun emerged.

This evening’s meal at the Fleur de Lys was excellent. We shared starters of Thai Fish Cakes and Belly of Pork; Jackie and I enjoyed Burger mains; I am not sure what the others chose; we all finished with sticky toffee pudding. We shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio and a Mendoza Argentine Malbec. I completed the meal with a Bailey’s, Jackie abstained and the others drank varieties of gin.

The Next Generation

My sisters cleared Mum’s room in Woodpeckers today and will take her favourite clothes to the undertakers. I had removed the one object I would like yesterday. This, bearing my name on the back in our mother’s block capitals, was

a pastel portrait I produced for her on the first anniversary of Dad’s death, 34 years ago.

This is the original of an enlarged photocopy, the completion of which is described in “Would You Believe It?”

This afternoon Jackie roused me from somewhat of a stupor to drive me into the forest.

Ponies could be seen on the move on the moorland astride Burley Road; holding up traffic as they crossed the road; and continuing to slake their thirsts at Whitemoor Pond.

Two grey ponies planted themselves on the road at Ibsley. Each time they shook the flies from their faces the pests dropped back into place almost without changing formation.

Two other ponies hugged the walls of the Old School House at South Gorley.

Donkeys and their foals occupied the area around Hyde primary school, while, on the green opposite

the next generation of schoolchildren were engaged in a sporting activity.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy chicken jalfrezi and savoury rice. She drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Comté Tolosan Rouge.

When Elizabeth rang to say that she and Jacqueline were just leaving Woodpeckers and going straight home we invited them for more of the jalfrezi, which they accepted with alacrity. I opened another bottle of the same wine for them to have a little before they left for an early night.

“Where’s Elizabeth?” (2)

Although the day became somewhat brighter and warmer as it progressed, it was really quite dull and cold until mid-afternoon. This morning we took a brief trip to Ferndene Farm Shop where the Head Gardener bought three more bags of compost and trays of bedding plants.

This afternoon we carried out a Tesco shop in the usual manner. Jackie was very pleased to try out the face screen Helen had given her for her birthday. It was a great improvement on the masks which make the task very difficult.

Afterwards we drove to Pilley where I made

this week’s selection of record pictures of the lake. Those from the two usual vantage points do not show the full difference in the water level from our last trip.

Maybe these three shots give a better idea, especially the last one which ten days ago contained a smaller pool apparently harbouring a shark.

I was able to walk across the dry stretch and round the row of cottages opposite the green on which small ponies grazed within sight of the thatched terrace. There I enjoyed a pleasant conversation with a mother and daughter whose home looked out onto the scene. We found we had marathon running in common, both having run the London.

There were more donkeys, with foals, on Bull Hill than there were ponies.

These managed to disrupt the traffic on a grand scale. It was particularly amusing when I white Toyota slalomed round the asses and came to a halt nose-to-nose with my Chauffeuse’s Modus, and out stepped Elizabeth, (“Where’s Elizabeth?” (2)), with her friend Barbara who is staying with her.

For dinner this evening, the Culinary Queen produced chicken marinaded in mango and chilli on a bed of vegetable rice with tender green beans. Her accompanying beverage was Hoegaarden and mine, more of the Shiraz.

“He’s Just Found He’s Got Legs”

Yesterday evening I reached a point past nine more of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to “Nicholas Nickleby”. and scanned them today.

Keeping depicts such movement in ‘The animals were no sooner released than they trotted back to the stable they had just left’.

‘A female bounced into the room, and seizing Mr Squeers by the throat gave him two loud kisses’. When repeated further in the book these portraits will be most recognisable.

The three boys in the foreground of ‘Mrs Squeers stood at one of the desks, presiding over an immense basin of brimstone and treacle’ are recent arrivals. Keeping shows by the chubby, innocent, profile of one that they have not yet adopted the description, including the harelip, Charles Dickens gives to the others. The mixture of sulphur and molasses was commonly used as a cure-all at the time. Here it was mainly employed as an appetite suppressant.

‘When they were both touched up to their entire satisfaction, they went down-stairs in full state’

‘The timid country girl shrunk through the crowd that hurried up and down the streets, clinging closely to Ralph’ displays the artist’s mastery of perspective.

‘They stopped in front of a large old dingy house that appeared to have been uninhabited for years’ displays historically accurate buildings.

‘The poor soul was poring hard over a tattered book with the traces of recent tears still upon his face’ represents the portrait given in the book’s frontispiece.

‘Pinning him by the throat, Nicholas beat the ruffian until he roared for mercy’

‘Dingy, ill-plumed, drowsy flutterers, sent to get a livelihood in the streets’ is one of Mr Keeping’s text sandwiches.

Between showers we prepared a site for the new, as yet unopened, wooden bench.

Later this afternoon we drove to Everton Nurseries where Jackie bought some trailing petunias, and continued into the forest.

where I was tempted from the car by the sight of groups of ponies who had been much more in evidence today than yesterday.

Purple violets beneath a yellow gorse bush; scattered bluebells; and a fossilised hand caught my attention.

I thought I could discern at least two foals in the distance.

To reach them I needed to follow a track across the running stream created by the ponies above.

That reminds me. The pony in the foreground of the first picture in this gallery determinedly emerged in my direction and took up a position with splayed legs right in front of me. It had made me rather nervous. Fortunately missing my feet it released a powerful stream from its rear end. Naturally I lifted my lens enough for decency. This was still creating its own little puddle when its companion did exactly the same thing. Were they trying to tell me something?

This was quite an undulating landscape.

Climbing up to the next level I was rewarded by the sight of two foals.

As its mother wandered away the first of these rose to its feet, stretched its limbs, trotted after her, then felt safe enough to look me in the eye.

On our journey home through East Boldre we encountered a group of donkeys and their foals.

Perhaps attempting to arouse the attention of its comatose mother,

one excited youngster repeatedly ran rings round the gorse bushes, causing Jackie to exclaim: “He’s just found he’s got legs”.

This evening we dined on plump lemon chicken thighs; creamy mashed potatoes; spicy hot ratatouille; and firm cauliflower, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Trivento Reserve Malbec 2019.

Fauna And Flora

This morning I watched the recorded Rugby World Cup quarter final match between England and Australia.

After lunch Jackie drove us into the forest where most of the free ranging animals were on display.

Donkeys with a foal basked in the sunshine at Bramshaw, where

another wandered up a lane towards the green occupied by




red brown and black Highland and other cattle.

In the vicinity of Nomansland we drove down a lane in Deazle Woods, up and down which a pair of walkers walked several times. Our paths continued to cross as we continued towards Newbridge. Each time I left the car with a camera they were there.

Here are some scenes of the woodland I wandered through.

Returning to the road from Nomansland we encountered a couple of sows with two piglets snuffling among the mud in search of mast.

One little piggy let out a fearful squeal as its mother butted it out of reach of one tasty morsel she wanted for herself.

Another donkey foal sat in the road as we approached Newbridge.

Sheep and cattle shared pasturage here.

One mother suckled her hungry calf. There was a certain amount of avid spillage.

A young lady speeding astride a sturdy steed seemed amused to scatter the sheep.

Just outside the village a small Shetland pony kindly enhanced my view of a backlit autumnal tree,

while a larger animal gave a demonstration of how to cross a dry ditch.

Back at home I watched the rugby quarter final match between New Zealand and Ireland, while Jackie planted more pansies and snakehead fritillaries and cleared more beds.

She photographed fuchsias Army Nurse and Display, heuchera leaves, phlox, and a  Japanese anemone.

Nugget was, of course, in attendance,

and wishes it known that he does feature in this garden image, perched above the central hanging basket. We considered that this was too difficult an example for the “Where’s Nugget?” game,

and made him settle for this “Where’s Nugget?” (38).

This evening we dined on Jackie’s wholesome cottage pie, the mash topped with fried potatoes; piquant cauliflower cheese; and crunchy broccoli and carrots with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Parra Alta Malbec 2018.


Finding Its Feet

Lidl and Aldi are gaining ground in the war to control England’s Supermarket custom. Their quality is very good and their prices very low. There is no finesse in their layout of goods, and there is no guarantee that an item on sale in the central aisles will be in stock the next day. General groceries are usually in regular supply.

This morning, on a regular shopping trip to Lidl, Jackie bought me a linen/cotton blend shirt for £7.99. She would have bought another had she been certain that XXL would fit. It did. This afternoon we returned for another. She left me in the car and entered the store to investigate. The stock had been replenished.

She returned with five more. As she was about to drive off she casually mentioned that there was a linen jacket she hadn’t bought because I would have had to try it on. I took the hint and left her in the car so I could attempt the purchase.

By this time the jackets were strewn all over the racks. None were in their boxes because they had all been tried on.

My rummage revealed that there was just one that fitted me. I bought it Jackie asked how much it had cost. “£19.99″was my reply. “Crikey, that’s very nearly twenty quid,” was her response.

We continued into the forest where, at Frogham, we encountered more baby donkeys.

One was quite elegantly sedate.

The other was far more wobbly. As it slid along the back of the Modus it slipped and fell under the side of the car. Jackie turned on the ignition and I called out to her not to move. She turned the engine off and our little friend extricated itself, rolled over, and commenced clattering backwards and forwards along the tarmac, narrowly missing my sandalled feet. It was certainly finding its own.

It then sandwiched itself between another vehicle and a walking couple who eventually continued their trip along the road. The local woman expressed the view that this creature had probably been born today or yesterday.

From the high point of Abbotswell we looked down on ponies, foals, and cattle basking in the sunshine;

field horses did the same thing beside Blissford Road;

and, nearer home, ponies were silhouetted on Birchy Hill.

This evening we dined on creamy, tangy lasagna with plentiful fresh salad. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Squinzano.