Thorns And Scratches

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Jackie is making good headway on her Spring planting

Sarcococca

Two sarcococcas, small shrubs which already dispense amazing scents, have been tried out with temporary plonking in their pots;

Other seeds, bulbs, and corms to come, are marked with packet labels;

Daffodil

Our first daffodil needed a helping hand to hold up its head.

Camellia

Camellias are now proliferating,

Cryptomeria

and the cryptomeria is sporting fresh needles.

Snowdrops

Most beds are blanketed with snowdrops;

Hellebore

more varieties of hellebore are blooming.

Many cyclamens have survived the winter, the white one here offering a fly a perch.

On this fine morning we took a trip into the forest.

At North Gorley a murder of crows were taking a very cold bath in the temporary pools. In order to park safely for a photograph we had to drive on and tun round, by which time most had flown away, a few engaged in aeronautics, and one remained  alone in contemplation.

One of the countryside crafts much in evidence in this area is that of hedge laying. A fine example lines a section of Hungerford Hill at Hyde. Water from the fields is fed into the ditch from pipes sunk into the banks.

This seven minute video demonstrates the skill required to maintain such a living boundary:

Donkeys largely eschew the grass they leave for the ponies that they perhaps regard as wimps whilst, occasionally pausing for a good scratch, they tear away at brambles and anything else prickly enough to test their mettle. These creatures were seen, as usual, at Hyde and Frogham. Could it be that the calloused craters between the nostrils of the young white one trimming the hedge at Frogham, have been caused by its chosen nutriment?

This evening we dined at Lal Quilla. Service was very friendly and efficient; the food was as superb as ever. We shared special fried rice, egg paratha, and onion bahjis. My main choice was Davedush; Jackie’s was Noorjehani. We both drank Kingfisher.

A selection of three photographs have been made from those I submitted. The size chosen is A3+. Raj, manager, wasn’t there, and the others want to check once more with him before I go ahead and produce them.

 

 

 

 

The Breadline

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This warm and wet afternoon Jackie and I went shopping at Setley Ridge Farm Shop for tomorrow’s provisions.

The amount of rain that has fallen in the last few days was reflected in the pitted car park surfaces. Bedraggled remnants of Christmas decorations partly filled trays left outside.

Inside the attractively laid out shelves displayed bread, biscuits, fruit, vegetables, nuts, drinks, preserves, free range eggs, dates, and much more. Lines of cups fronting pickle jars contained taster samples of the enticing varieties. Even the shoppers’ baskets in the  doorway invited filling with the wholesome provender.

On our return through Brockenhurst we noticed a string of donkeys on the breadline in the garden of Greatham House. A coating of bracken indicated that they had trooped in from the forest for their tea, which, clearly a regular event, was soon provided by the lady of the house.

This evening we all dined on Jackie’s splendid steak and mushroom pie, creamy mashed potatoes, and crisp cabbage, cauliflower, and carrots. I drank more of the shiraz cabernet and Becky and Ian drank Encostats de Caiz vinho verde 2016.

Sussing Possible Rentals

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For much of the day, Jackie drove me and Flo around the forest, focussing on the location of a few flats she has found that might be suitable for her to rent. First on the itinerary was one over the antiques centre where Elizabeth has a cabinet.

From there we drove on to Ashurst to survey the forested area surrounding the secluded building. The low sun sent sharp shadows across the sparkling frosted terrain; and brightened reflections in the developing pools. Lichen covered broken branches lay all around.

A pony ripped its way through the bracken in which it foraged.

Once in the north of the forest, we brunched at Hockey’s Farm Shop at South Gorley. There, Flo photographed the alpacas, the donkeys, and the chickens. She was making a video with some still photographs of the New Forest.

A diminutive pony fed from a box on the side of a pen.

Sow with piglets

A contented sow shielded her three day old piglets from prying eyes. A notice warned that she might become grumpy if they were poked.

Donkeys

Donkeys always seem more in evidence to the north of the A31.

Godshill was our next port of call. We are unable to find the selected property, but we did tramp along muddy paths. The car’s access to the most likely location was barred by three farm horses, one of which was particularly large. As we made our way past them, the animals picked up speed and appeared to be racing us down the soggy slope on which mud mingled with equine droppings.

Farm horses waiting for tea

We thought it best to stand aside from these heavy-hoofed beasts. They swung round the bend at the bottom of the hill, coming to a halt at the farm gate. We were informed by the woman apparently in charge of their reception committee that they were assembling for their tea.

We failed to meet Becky and Ian here. After waiting in Godshill Cricket car park watching the moon rise and the sun set, we returned home to find the others there. Our problem was the lack of mobile phone signals depriving us of the ability to communicate on the move, on which we have all become so dependent.

This evening we all grazed on cold meats, cheeses, and salads Jackie laid out on the kitchen table.

 

 

Plein Air Painting

A BT engineer spent most of the morning with us. He found a fault in the line up the street, a faulty hub and possibly a faulty TV Box. The good news is that this was all the provider’s equipment, so we will not have to pay £130 for the privilege. The engineer would put all this in his report. He thought we might be able to use BT on our laptops. We tried after he had left. We couldn’t. Neither could we access Players and Apps on our TV.

We just had time to collect our Antipodean dollars from the bank at Lymington before it was James Peacock’s turn to administer to our internet. He brought a new modem for the EE line, and activated Players and Apps through that. Everything is now working brilliantly.

BT Broadband clearly has to go. I now had a dilemma. I could ring BT and cancel their package, or we could drive to Tanner’s Lane and catch the sunset. There wasn’t time to do both.

No prizes for guessing that we caught the sunset over the beach;

honking swans flying across the backdrop of the Isle of Wight;

along the lane itself;

Donkeys

 donkeys employed in pruning a holly hedge;

Sunset 11

and masts of yachts in Lymington harbour.

Sunset painting

Whilst walking along the shingle at Tanner’s Lane beach I admired the plein air painting of Barry Peckham. My camera lens at deep dusk has failed to do justice to this friendly man’s accurate rendering of a painting executed in the short time available. The delicacy with which he has captured the skies, and reflections on the water is most impressive.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s pork baked in mustard and brown sugar, topped with almonds and served on sautéed mushrooms and onions; boiled potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, and runner beans. She drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

Wishing All My Readers Happiness In Their Own Festive Season

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Much of today was spent writing Christmas cards.

It therefore seemed appropriate to present this selection from my archives,

from which readers can choose their own with my best wishes. In order of appearance, the three Christmas cards were designed by me aged 16, 17, and 18. They represent the three kings, the shepherds, and Mary and Jesus from the Christian Nativity story.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s excellent chilli con carne, savoury rice, and vegetable samosas, with which I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

 

“C’m’ere”

This morning Jackie drove me to the bank at Lymington to order more Antipodean currency. Since it was such a bright, crisp, day we continued on to the forest.

The moors on the approach to Brockenhurst were alive with strings of ponies basking, snoozing, ambling, grazing among the browned bracken and the now naked trees.

Ponies in landscape 4

 

 

We have an expression, ‘stir your stumps’, indicating ‘get your feet moving’. If you have ever seen one of these cumbersome creatures, forelegs first, dragging hind-quarters, heaving itself to its feet, you may understand what this involves.

Cigarette end and packet on verge

Maybe a cigarette smoker had stood watching this bucolic scene; maybe just lobbed the detritus from his or her car.

Whilst the occasional equine ambled towards me, most continued their silent dining, casting shadows, and collecting bracken clinging to their mud-caked hides.

Although one turned its sleepy head in my direction, donkeys dozing by the roadside on the outskirts of the village itself, seemed oblivious of the passing traffic.

From Brockenhurst we travelled to the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive.

Most of the trees there are giant redwoods or Sequoias planted many years ago.

Impressive as are these mighty evergreens,

at this time of the year their beauty lies far below their lofty summits, among the curling bracken, the fallen leaves, and their stark shadows.

All of a sudden, the peaceful silence of the forest was shattered by a distant raucous bark. I peered through the trees, seeking an uncouth canine. I then realised that the bark spelled out “C’m’ere”. I glimpsed a woman giving chase, but no dog. I do believe a profanity was uttered. Eventually a little white pooch was clutched, harnessed, and led off without a protest.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s praiseworthy lamb jalfrezi and perfect onion rice. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank Chonch y Toro Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon 2016.

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.