Mediocre Meals; Men’s room Mobiles; Merry Music.

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Today was one of mixed impressions. We began by setting off late this morning to visit my mother in West End. En route we stopped for lunch at

The Royal Oak, Hilltop

The Royal Oak at Hilltop, near Beaulieu.

Among the gorse along the roadside , donkeys and a pony dozed or grazed within sight of Fawley power station.

Ice and oak leaves

Ice had formed in the car park puddles, trapping some of the fallen water-bound oak leaves.

The ambience inside was good and the service most friendly.

Beer glass

However, the beer lacked spirit and was served in murky glasses suggesting there was something awry with the dishwasher. Our very young waitress apologised for this and said she would pass on my observations.

Steak & Ale Pie and Ploughman's meals

My steak and ale pie appeared to have been prepared earlier, then overheated, with the result that all the wrong bits of the meal were crispy. Jackie’s ploughman’s lacked the usual ingredient of cheese, but contained a small portion of paté, and a preponderance of pickles. The crusty bread had been put through a slicer some time before. There was no butter.

Pickles

Leaving a quantity of the pickled elements on her plate, Jackie observed that “there is only so much pickle you can eat”.

I approached the till to settle the bill, wondering how I was going to do this politely. In the event, I was helped out by the not quite so young woman I took to be the manager. It is not unusual for pubs and restaurants to add what they call optional or discretionary gratuities to the bill. I always ensure that these will go to the staff before paying them. Otherwise I tip in cash and settle the rest by card. It is not usual for the person taking your money to open the conversation with the statement that you don’t have to pay this if you don’t want to. This is what this woman did. I asked her who received the money. She said the staff were the beneficiaries. I said that in that case I would pay it, because the service had been excellent, but the food was not, and I had already shown her colleague the state of the glasses.

I claimed that my meal had probably started life in a good condition but had been microwaved so that all the wrong bits were crispy. She replied that they didn’t microwave their meals, but heated them up in the oven. “In that case”, I replied, “this one  spent too long in the oven”. I didn’t think there was much point in the methods both Jackie and I learned from our mothers of putting the plate, with a lid on it, over a pan of boiling water.

I also spoke of the preponderance of pickles and other aspects of Jackie’s meal.

We won’t go there again.

Before visiting Mum, we stopped at Haskin’s Garden Centre in West End. I visited the Gents’ Toilet. There was just one vacant urinal at which I took up my station. I glanced to the left of me and noticed a gentleman scanning his mobile phone in his right hand with his somewhat extended member in the other. I glanced to the right of me. Another gentleman was similarly engaged. “Now I’ve seen it all”, I ejaculated. Two mobile phones were pocketed, and two somewhat reduced members stuffed back where they belonged. Two urinals became vacant.

I do hope that is not considered too much information.

We then spent a pleasant hour with Mum before moving on to Margery and Paul’s annual Christmas sing-song. This was as hilarious and chaotic as ever; with some very meaningful conversations taking place in the break during which well prepared tea and Margery’s legendary mini mince pies were served. Our hosts and Mary, the pianist, were in fine form as we muddled through all the old favourites.

This evening we dined on a spic pizza and plentiful fresh salad. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Minervois.

Reflecting Autumn

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This morning Paul and Margery delivered the nicely mounted signed painting that John created on 21st September.

We brunched at Hockey’s Farm Shop.

Donkey close-up

In the lane outside a donkey rushed to our open car window in search of treats. No-one had told it that Halloween was over.

Donkey and ponies

Its cousins in the farm field, having no need to cadge, could afford to ignore me.

Donkeys and horse

They also took no notice of horses in the neighbouring paddock.

Donkey and poniesPony

They shared their own grass with very small ponies

Pony and alpacaAlpacas

and with alpacas.

Autumn leaves

Autumn leaves

Tree reflections

adorned trees over the Ibsley forded stream

Autumn leaves and reflectionAutumn reflected in stream

in which their reflections swayed in dance.

Woodland scene 3Woodland scene 1Woodland scene 5Woodland scene 2Shadows on leaves by streamWoodland scene 6

Sunlight dappled the woodland alongside. If you do enlarge this last one, please ignore the litter.

Fallen tree

As with all safely fallen forest trees, this one will remain where it lies, in the interests of ecology.

Coach and horses

An antique coach with rather younger hitched trace-horses was parked outside the Alice Lisle pub near Ringwood.

Horses heads in harness

The horses were in harness,

Horse without part of harness 1

although one looked rather smug,

Horse with dangling harness

as part of its equipage dangled free.

Coach wheels 1

The smaller wheels stood at rest below the cab, while the the coachmen presumably enjoyed a glass of porter in the pub.

Coach rear 1

Hopefully neither the learner nor his or her instructor will have imbibed too much.

This evening we dined on a pepperoni pizza and salad, with which Jackie drank sparkling water and I finished the Fronton.

 

 

 

Emma Would Have Been Under Water

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When I was awaiting my hip replacement in 2009, my GP offered the opinion that I would never have a blood pressure problem. I wonder what she would have thought about my performance on the telephone today, much of which was again spent in frustrating negotiations about the mortgage. We were just about to set off with two full orange bags of clippings for the dump, when I learned that I had to make yet another call before we could be under way. I made the call. We then arrived at the dump just after it had closed.

A trip to the forest was in order.

Tree turning to autumn 1Tree turning to autumn 2Tree turning to autumn 3Tree turning to autumn 4

Only a few specimen trees were beginning to change into their autumn robes. The others still retained their summer garb.

Cloudscape 1Cloudscape 2Cloudscape 3Cloudscape 4Cloudscape 5Cloudscape 6

Smoky indigo clouds swirled over the moors,

Cloudscape 7

the sun only periodically piercing their cover,

Ponies 1Pony

and lighting up the ponies,

CowCattle

cattle,

Donkey and cattle

Donkeys on road

and donkeys wandering about East Boldre,

Donkeys with apples

where a woman had stopped her car and unloaded boxes of apples for their delectation.

High tide with boatHigh tideMan watching sunset

Tanner’s Lane beach was awash with the highest tide we had ever seen there. As we contemplated this we reflected that, had this been today, Emma might have been under water.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb beef and mushroom pie; sautéed potatoes, carrots, and Brussels sprouts; and broccoli al dente. She drank Hoegaarden, and I drank an excellent Finca Flichman reserve malbec 2015, given to me by Helen and Bill for my birthday.

 

 

Donkeys and Ice Cream

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When we arrived home from Elizabeth’s late yesterday afternoon, the house was very smoky, and the garden full of ash, all emanating from a bonfire in the North Breeze garden, which had been almost razed to the ground. The jungle is no more.

Much rain in the night freshened up our garden,

Bonfire in North Breeze garden 2Bonfire in North Breeze garden 1Bonfire in North Breeze garden 4Smoky garden 1

but had not put out the fire which was added to today.

Dahlias

Some parts of our plot and its contents, like these dahlias, still saw the sun,

Smoky garden 2Smoky garden 3Smoky garden 4Smoky garden 5Smoky garden 6Smoky garden 7

but mostly it remained befogged.

By Hatchet Pond

Elizabeth, Danni, and my great nephew Jasper, came to lunch, after which we drove in convoy to Hatchet Pond.

Jasper and Elizabeth 1Jasper and Elizabeth 2Elizabeth and Jasper 1Jasper 1

Jasper and his Gee-ma investigated the lapping wavelets at the edge of the water.

A woman handed the little lad a bag of prawn crackers with which to feed the water birds. As I said, you always receive too many of this freebies with a Chinese takeaway meal. Jasper wasn’t all that interested, so Danni decided to feed them to

Donkeys 1Donkey foalDonkey shadow

the hastily arriving donkeys, one of which was really very young.

Danni feeding donkey 1

She began with a medium-sized one,

Danni feeding donkey 2

which was head-butted away by the largest creature.

Donkey 1

This animal was so aggressive that the crackers were soon chucked on the ground.

Water liliesBall and water lily

Leaving Jackie on a bench, the rest of us walked to the far end of the pond, past the water lilies,

Women on bench

and others seated in the sun,

Jackie, Jasper, Danni, Elizabeth, ice creams, and donkey

in search of ice cream.

Jasper and Elizabeth 3

Elizabeth clutched wipes for protection against her grandson’s drips,

Jasper and Elizabeth 4

occasionally licking her lips in anticipation.

Ice cream melting

Eventually she was handed the melting cone.

Donkey close-up 1Donkey close-up 2Donkey close-up 3

After this, the aggressive donkey rested its muzzle on my lap.

We dined on Mr Pinks’s fish and chips, gherkins, and pickled onions. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, while Elizabeth and I finished the Douro.

Jasper, Elizabeth and Danni

Danni has just e-mailed me our selfie on the bench.

 

Her First Baby Donkey

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Although the rain has stopped, we are still enduring gale force winds. This involved us picking up branches and various other bits of debris.

Elizabeth came for the afternoon. After lunch Jackie drove us all to Hockey’s Farm at Ibsley, where the ladies enjoyed cream teas and I drank sparkling water.

Donkey and Alpaca

At the farm, larger than average donkeys shared a field with the alpacas.

Hockey's Farm house 1Hockey's Farm house 2

Part of the complex is an attractive thatched house,

Ploughshare 1Window and ploughshare

by the side of which lie a pair of antique ploughshares.

Woman and dog conversing in front of thatched house

Seated at one of the tables whilst her companion visited the café, a woman engaged in conversation with her dog.

Ploughshare and window from café doorway

The back door of the café looked out onto the scene.

Derrick by Elizabeth 3.8.17

Elizabeth photographed me at our table. Later we cropped it to produce an up-to-date WP profile picture.

Mushrooms

A Milky Way of mushrooms outside Hyde

Puffball by Elizabeth

prompted Elizabeth later to photograph a puffball growing in the gravel of our Shady Path.

Donkey and foal 1

At Frogham, my sister was delighted to encounter her ‘first baby donkey’,

Donkey and foal blackberrying

seen blackberrying with its mother.

Donkey by Elizabeth

Something was making the foal itch. Elizabeth created this image.

Back home we dined on Jackie’s perfect pasta arrabbiata with sugar snaps. Elizabeth and I finished the malbec, whilst Jackie drank Hoegaarden.

Afterwards, Elizabeth and I examined our photographs.

P.S. See Paol’s comment below for correct information on the old ploughs

Five If You Hit A Donkey

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As I struggled with ensuring I was digging up allium bulbs around the patio without damaging surrounding plants, I reflected on the tiny thyme twigs that, three years ago, I rescued from the butler sinks lost among the undergrowth covering the Dead End Path.

They are doing very well in their stony, sunny, new home, and don’t at all mind the dry weather we are experiencing.

This afternoon we went for a drive in the forest.

Cricket match 7Cricket match 1Cricket match 6Cricket match 2Cricket match 3Cricket match 4Cricket match 5

At Burley a cricket match was in progress.

Cricket match 8

The scoreboard, stationed in front of the pavilion and changing rooms, demonstrated what was obvious to spectators, namely that the bowling side was in receipt of a drubbing. There are eleven players per side in this game. Ten wickets may fall before the innings ends. Sometimes the captain may declare the innings closed before that happens. The top line of figures on the board shows the total, in this case 175. The next is the number of wickets fallen – 4. Then follows the score made by the last batsman out – 33. This was a good score for only four wickets down. The young man wearing pads in the picture was the next man to bat. He was having a long wait.

There is always a drinks interval during each innings at cricket. It was only fitting, therefore, that we should stop for one at The Foresters’ Arms at Frogham, before taking a leisurely route home.

Ponies and foalPony and foal 1Pony 1Pony 2Foal

Alongside Roger Penny Way the parents of a pony family cropped the grass while their offspring sprawled beside them.

Pony mare and foal

Further on, another mother led her foal across the road in front of us.

Man in mobility scooter, woman with terriers, cattle, calf 2Man in mobility scooter, woman with terriers, cattle, calf

In the lane around the back of Cadham we encountered a fascinating grouping consisting of a gentleman in a mobility scooter, a woman, a terrier, and cattle with a calf. Naturally we waited for them to sort themselves out. The man, woman, and dog took themselves to the side of the road;

Cattle

one of the cows cleaned its hoof; and the calf stayed firmly planted.

Woman and calf

The woman kindly shooed it off.

Outside Lyndhurst a less successful attempt was made to persuade another animal to move along.

Thatched cricket pavilionCricket match 9

Cricket match 10This time a cricket match was set on a rather undulating piece of ground against a backdrop blessed with a rather splendid thatched pavilion.

Cricket and donkey

Cricket and donkeys 2

Cricket and donkeys 1A pair of donkeys in the outfield ignored the flanneled sportsmen, and gradually made their way towards the pitch.

Cricket and donkeys 3

After a while one of the players clapped vigorously. This caused one to shift a few yards. It is possible that the cricketer was mindful of the rule about striking an obstruction with the ball. If a ball is hit to the boundary of the field without bouncing, six runs (as the points are called) are awarded. If the ball does hit the ground before crossing the line, the score is advanced by four runs. Whether or not the ball bounces first, a strike which hits an obstruction on the field of play is awarded 5 runs. Consequently hitting a donkey is worth 5.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb chilli con carne with vegetable rice and runner beans. I finished the cabernet sauvignon and Jackie drank Peroni.

Get Up And Have A Look At This

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Today Jackie made much progress on weeding, planting, and watering. I did some tidying up and composting.

Later this afternoon we drove over to East End to see how the thatching was coming along.

Thatching 1Thatching 4Thatching 7Thatching 3Thatching 8

The craftsmen have started the ridging. Readers will have noticed reeds left sticking up on top of the roofs. These have now been strapped in place in readiness for the sculptured topping.

Garden and summer houseThatching 6

In a far corner of the back garden a summer house is also receiving a new roof.

Scaffolding and leaded window

The scaffolding shadows converse with the leaded diamonds of the traditional windows.

Pony mare and foal suckling

We moved on to Beaulieu where a gentle white pony mare suckled her little black foal.

Pony mare and foal crossing road

The mother decided I was paying too much attention and took her offspring across the newly surfaced road to join a group of grazing cattle.

Cattle crossing road

The cattle weren’t too keen on the idea and repaired to the other side. All this movement, of course, gave the car drivers something to think about.

Bluebell wood 1Bluebell wood 2Bluebell wood 3

Further on, lining Lodge Lane and the roadside at Sowley, lay fenced off bluebell woods.

Motorboat 1Motorboat 2Motorboat and yachts

Our next stop was Tanners Lane where a motor boat buffeted along the Solent against the backdrop of the Isle of Wight.

Donkeys 1

In the field alongside the shingle beach, a pair of donkeys basked.

Donkeys 2

One nudged his partner as if to say “Get up and come and look at this”. Throwing back her head and propping up her pregnant bulk with her forelegs, the mare awkwardly found her feet,

Donkey's eye

and staggered across to have a look.

This evening we dined on succulent chicken thighs marinaded in barbecue sauce, served with Jackie’s very special egg fried rice. She drank Peroni and I drank Louis de Camponac Cabernet Sauvignon 2015.