A Rose For Retirement

HaircutBeach stones in pathEarly this morning Jackie resumed a task she had first undertaken more than forty years ago. She cut my hair, thus putting Donna-Marie out of business. Its colour was rather different first time round. The dark bit must be a trick of the light.
After this I placed the beach stones between the slabs in yesterday’s path. There were still not quite enough, and they put those found in the garden somewhat into the shade, so we will probably need a few more, even after I picked up some interesting pieces of flint on my later walk, and inserted them in place on my return.
During a break, Jackie has managed to identify two of the plants that had us beaten. The first is the white flower, libertia, depicted on 28th April; the second had been identified by Tess, but we couldn’t remember the name of the hebe salicifolia koromiko. Like our daughter in law, and so many of our garden treasures, these are both natives of New Zealand.
Dug up pathPaving from kitchen gardenWall round compost stage 1The day’s major joint task was to start on clearing the kitchen garden in preparation for its transformation into a rose bower. Largely hidden beneath the greenery lie treacherously uneven criss-crossing paths in all sorts of material, mostly brick, stone, and concrete, covering ancient layers of gravel. Any speculation about the evolution of this ankle-twisting surface would be fruitless. This, we have decided, will be the one area where we abandon what we find previously laid down, level it all off, and start from scratch with a sheet of squared paper.
I have begun piling up the paving, apart from the concrete slabs Jackie has snaffled to build a wall with which to restrain the compost.
Shady bedRetirement roseJackie has planted up what was the rather barren shady bed opposite the pale blue Ace Reclaim bench. The red rose in the container beneath the Gardman arch was given to her by her work colleagues when she retired from Merton Social Services Department two years ago. It has survived several moves, including overwintering at Shelly and Ron’s.
Mare's tailsLater this afternoon, I walked down to Shorefield stream and back.New Forest Tour bus The field opposite the entrance to the Country Park has a fine crop of mare’s tails. The New Forest Tour bus stops at the zebra crossing leading down to the chalets beyond the stream.
Pigeon on cableI had been hoping to photograph some coots today, but there were none in evidence.Small tortoiseshell male butterfly I did, however, watch a pigeon doing a high-wire act, and a male small tortoiseshell butterfly sunning itself on a buddleia.Red Admiral male butterfly Our butterflies, like this male Red Admiral prefer basking on our paving stones to perching on our version of that plant.
We dined on refreshing salad again this evening, followed by strawberries and evap (for the uninitiated this is a family term for evaporated milk) on a bed of Tesco’s raspberry twirl cheesecake. The cheesecake was reduced in price because it was pushing its sell-by date; the evap was reduced in fat content, because it is less likely to fatten the consumer. I drank more of the French cotes du Rhone and Jackie her Belgian beer (Hoegaarden in case you’ve forgotten).


The front cover of Iain Pears’ novel ‘An Instance Of The Fingerpost’ bears a quotation from P.D.James: ‘A fictional tour de force which combines erudition with mystery’.  And she should know.  I finished reading this book of Margery’s this morning.  Four different narrators take it in turns to give their somewhat contradictory versions of a 17th Century tale that weaves into its rich tapestry genuine historical characters, both those with whose names we are familiar, and others more obscure.  The element of mystery is so successful that I was unsure, until the last few of almost 700 pages, which of the strands we were actually meant to be unravelling.  A clever book which I admired, I think an adherent of Umberto Eco may find it a little more entertaining than I did.

I then printed a copy of yesterday’s picture of Donna-Marie as a present for her that we delivered to the salon on our way to Ringwood, being the first of today’s Christmas shopping venues. Highcliffe Castle (Jackie) From Ringwood we went on to Castlepoint, then to Highcliffe Castle’s gift shop.  Incredibly we have nearly completed the task.

With the leaves on the trees still glowing warm in the gloom of a thoroughly cloud-covered day, we have observed that autumn seems to have come a little late this year.  The next two photographs in my ‘posterity’ collection confirm that impression.  cannizaro-park-10-63-1They were taken in October fifty years ago joseph-10-63when Cannizaro Park was resplendent in various shades of golden brown, and my brother Joseph sat gleefully tossing leaves.  I have mentioned before how I, with first Vivien, then Jackie, took Joe around with us everywhere.  It would have been Vivien accompanying me when I took the attached out of focus masterpiece.

Still public, this park on the edge of Wimbledon Common, is the remnants of the grounds of an 18th century country house, owned in the 1960s by Wimbledon Borough Council which became part of the London Borough of Merton.  The house was sold in the 1980s, no doubt an example of Sir Harold MacMillan’s famous metaphor for privatisation, ‘selling off the family silver’.  It is now an internationally patronised hotel in which Matthew once worked when Oliver Reed was in residence.  When I had been not much older than my young sibling my parents had taken me and my brother and sisters to play in the gardens.

This evening we dined on haddock and chips, mushy peas, pickled onions and cornichons accompanied by Palastri pinot grigio 2012.  Vanilla ice cream with strawberry jam and evaporated milk was to follow.

P.S. Alex Schneideman rebalanced my two historic photographs and e-mailed the results which I have substituted for my originals.  Thank you Alex.

Pink Champagne

Chequerboard fuchsiaJackie’s Chequerboard fuchsia is not hardy, so she has brought it into the bedroom for the winter, and it has flowered again.  It struck me this morning as being in perfect harmony with its surroundings. It was to seem even more an appropriate colour match for today’s later encounter.

By 9.00 a.m. we were in Ringwood to deliver the car to Wells Garage for its M.O.T. test.  Leaving the vehicle for its once-over, Jackie set off to the town for some shopping whilst I embarked upon the Avon Valley Path from Hurst Road, that I had last walked on 4th March.Avon Valley Path (2) Avon Valley Path The Avon Valley Path is often very narrow and bordered by very high wire fencing, keeping us away from fields, woods, and lakes on private land; or simply by garden fences.  The wire fencing as described occupies the start of this particular route, and is actually rather claustrophobic.  It soon has a meandering stream running along the left hand side although the right retains the uninviting barrier.  On my previous visit I left the stream because I took the path indicated by a green arrow as the Avon Valley one.  Today I chose to stay with the rivulet, following the yellow arrows indicating the Countryside Path.  This was far more pleasant.  It widened out in parts and had the added attractions of continuing running water.

As I had noted in March, the path was criss-crossed by tree roots of varying forms and sizes.  Given that they were now covered by fallen leaves, knowing they were there probably saved me from twisting an ankle or two. Avon Valley Path (3)Avon Valley Path (1) Recently fallen trees formed primitive bridges straddling the stream or new arches across the footpath. The only other person I met was a man doing his best to keep up with two terriers whilst ensuring he didn’t become entangled in their extending leads.  He was hard put to answer my greeting.

Back in March, on the Avon Valley Path, I had been unable to get near most of the lakes on the route. Linwood LakeLinwood Lake (1) Today, on the Countryside Path I had an excellent view of Linwood Lake, although it too, as a nature reserve of some importance, was fenced off.  Stately swans sailed upon it.

After forty minutes I came to a road beneath which, with the benefit of a ford, continued the stream.  It was signposted to Ringwood.  As a circular route would always be preferable to me, I decided to take the road, which was later signed as Gorley Road.  Turning right at The White Hart and along Southampton Road took me through Poulner and back to the town.

As I passed Donna-Marie’s hair salon, she was standing in her doorway, and I stopped and spoke with her for a minute or two.  When Jackie and I have tried to describe everything that is pink about this beautiful and bubbly young lady and her establishment, mere words have not been able to do justice to it. Donna-Marie Donna was more than happy to help me put her, and consequently you, in the picture.

Upon reaching Ringwood I walked through Kings Arms Lane to the riverside, round the Bickerley, up to and under the A31, and arrived back at Wells Garage just as they had phoned Jackie to say the car was ready.  I waited for her to return from Sainsbury’s and we took the pretty route through Bransgore back home, once again marvelling at the stunning array of varying colours of the autumn leaves that  dazzled even on such a dull day.

After a dozy afternoon we dined on tender pork fillet marinaded in plum sauce; vegetables roasted with sweet chilli sauce; and egg fried rice, cooked by Jackie in a manner which would have pleased any Chinese cook.  Dessert was vanilla ice cream with strawberry jam and evaporated milk.  I finished the Gran Familia.

The Diabolo

It was time for another haircut today.  Donna-Marie being on holiday, I was attended to by another pink lady.  It is now clear that to work in this delightful hairdressers one has to be dressed in a magenta smock-like garment clashing or, according to taste, blending nicely with the pink decor, and have a champagne personality.  Victoria, although a long-standing friend of Donna’s, has only been working for her for eight weeks, and is clearly enjoying it.

kendamaVictoria’s teenaged lookalike son visited his Mum whilst I was in the chair.  Great fun then ensued, with lots of banter following my joking ‘I’d never have guessed’, when informed that Elliott was her son.  She then held up a bulky envelope addressed to him.  They live across the road from the establishment.  The envelope would not fit into their letterbox.  The postman knew where Victoria worked.  He delivered the parcel to her.  That is what I call service, and comes from a good knowledge of one’s customers, and probably some continuity of employment, possibly more likely to be encountered in a country town than in a city.  Elliott was delighted.


Elliott was asked to open the envelope to show me the contents.  The young man was now the proud possessor of two kendamas.  He is apparently very skilled in manipulating this Japanese toy. Yo-yo Like the diabolo of my youth, the kendama is a variation on the yo-yo.  Apparently the fundamental idea is to toss the ball in the air and catch it in one of the wooden cups, or skewer it on the spike.  It seems a little more physical than the average computer game.

I must have been somewhere around ten or eleven when our maternal grandparents brought Chris and me each a diabolo from one of their holidays abroad. 220px-1812-Costumes-Parisiens-diabolo-color Two long hand-held poles are linked by a length of string on which one balances, spins, and tosses an object shaped like a wasp-waisted tube, as shown in the accompanying illustration from 1812.  This is the diabolo.  Modern diabolos are, I believe, made of some plastic substances that are stronger, more rigid, and less prone to deterioration than our rubber ones. We two boys spent at least one 1950s summer obsessed with improving our skill.  The requisite long dress made for somewhat restricted movement, but we managed well enough.

Jackie had driven me to my appointment and gone on to Ringwood.  I walked to the car park to meet her, arriving just as torrential rain hit the town.  Either it tracked us all the way home, or it had struck Minstead simultaneously.

Jackie produced an excellent sausage casserole this evening.  It was followed by lemon drizzle cake and ice-cream.  She had a glass of yesterday’s Pedro Jimenes wine.  I drank a First Cape cabernet sauvignon 2012.

Mo and John, who will be spending some time in Sigoules came over for a drink and helped me finish my bottle.  I showed them some photographs of numero 6, and Jackie took them on a Google maps tour around the village.

Machine Operated Hoops

On 25th June I mentioned that all the garages had been broken into.  The locks need replacement.  The others are all owned by separate residents.  They will all deal with them individually, which seems a bit uneconomic to me.  However, as a tenant, I managed to get the agent to arrange for a locksmith to make contact.  He got me to photograph the lock and e-mail it to him so he could identify it. Garages and locksmiths We will now have a succession of individual locksmiths descending on Minstead.  There will be no consequent discount for bulk orders.

After this we had a drive.  First stop was Donna-Marie in Poulner for my haircut.  This chirpy pink young lady doesn’t appreciate silence.  Jackie sat in the waiting area and was drawn in to respond to the questions designed to open up conversation.  It was all very pleasant as long as you didn’t just come in for a quiet sit-down and snip.

When the answer to the enquiry about where Jackie had been camping turned out to be very close to where Donna lives, we were well away.  Naturally this led to camping stories.  My hairdresser was very amused by the tale of the keys reported in ‘An Uncomfortable Night’ posted on 26th August last year.

We then went for an accommodation window shop in Bashley Cross Road, New Milton.  The house we were aiming for was very attractive inside and out at the back, but we were intrigued by the lack of a front elevation photograph. Bashley Cross Road house The rather twee windows, including a bay concealed behind a hedge, may have contributed to this omission. Chicken farm Next door is a chicken farm.  We wondered how many cockerels may be on song in the mornings.  Alongside the farm is Ferndene Farm Shop.  Whether or not we will ever come back to look at the house properly (we have no money yet), we will revisit this excellent shop.  Five tills were inadequate to cater for all the people queuing for all kinds of fresh vegetables; meats and meat products; cheese; pickles; and much more, not to mention the vast array of plants outside beside the ample car park.  So many people  crowded around the shelves and cooling cabinets that I felt rather in the way and stepped back to allow Jackie to get on with her task of selection.  Wherever I stood I blocked someone’s passage.  Actually, as we arrived at the car park, I commented on the superb quality of the plants.  Since this shop is sited alongside a country road, all these shoppers would have driven here, possibly from some distance.  Pies from Ferndown Farm shopThe pies we sampled for lunch confirmed my impression that this is the best shop of its kind I have ever experienced.

Back home we turned our minds to windscreen insurance.   My post of 25th May featured Ryan of Screen-Care UK carrying out a repair necessitated by a crack left by a stone thrown up by an overtaking vehicle a few days earlier.  Never before had either Jackie or I been subjected to a cracked windscreen.  Nevertheless, a few days ago, another was inflicted.  An impatient Porsche on the M27, overtaking, came straight across our path; there was a sharp crack; and a minute horizontal dint no more than a couple of centimetres long appeared near the base of the glass on the driver’s side. As it was so small we didn’t think it worth repairing. Windscreen crackWithin the last few days, however, it has spread across most of the width of the window, and even sent a tributary skywards.

This second crack reminded Jackie that she has not yet received the cheque to cover Ryan’s express repair.  Maybe, she thought, she hadn’t let Churchill, the insurance company, know her new address?  She hadn’t.

So now there were three matters to be resolved.  To inform the insurers of the change of address; to follow up the cheque for £40; and to report the need for a replacement windscreen.  The vast improvements brought about by modern technology mean that you understand it will be a robot, albeit one sounding almost human, who will answer the phone and invite you to press a variety of numbers according to taste.  I would have said choice, but I have learned that what I am dealing with is a menu.  For this reason the use of an antique telephone sporting an actual dial is not to be recommended.  Of the four telephone numbers given with Churchill’s policy documents, Customer Care seemed a likely bet.  It was, if you were not an existing customer and wanted to be given a choice of policies for motor vehicles, houses, etc.  If you were already paying your premium you were offered no way of reaching the correct destination.  Claims Hotline was pretty similar.  Glass Repair and Replacement was a little better.  We were answered by a person.  When I’d finished explaining our three concerns, Clem informed me that I had come straight through to Autoglass.  He wasn’t Churchill.  Neither was he Screen-Care.  ‘How do I get to Churchill?’, seemed a natural question, to which he didn’t know the answer.  And Screen-Care was beyond his remit. But he could organise the replacement windscreen.

Our division of labour works like this:  I go through the machine operated hoops, then pass the phone to Jackie once a real live person appears.  The reason we do it this way is because I am marginally more sane by the time the obstacles have been overcome.  She found Clem very helpful and particularly reassuring in his explanation that the windscreen in its current condition would not shatter.  The job was booked for next week, and the £75 excess taken.

I was therefore forced to take up the other matters by e-mail.  You can possibly imagine the tenor of my message, written, of course, in Jackie’s name, so she will have the pleasure of the insurers’ response.

One Direction

Seagulls in waterlogged field 12.12Today I decided my Father Christmas locks must be shorn.  From the options available on Google we selected Donna-Marie of Southampton Street, Ringwood.  Jackie drove me there and we made an appointment for 3.30 p.m. which was five hours away.  I set off on a walk and Jackie went shopping.  We met two hours later in Poppies coffee shop above their baker’s, where I had an all-day breakfast and Jackie enjoyed a cauliflower cheese.  After this we bought quite a few pieces of cake-making equipment at The Lighthouse cookshop and returned home before revisiting Donna-Marie, who was a delightful young woman who gave me an excellent haircut and lots of cuddly chat, a couple of hours later.  She said she had wondered to a customer who she had been styling when I made the appointment why Derrick wanted his hair cut when Father Christmas hadn’t been yet.

My walk took me back to the riverside area swamped by the river Avon.  Conditions were much the same as they had been on 30th November.Horses in waterlogged field, Ringwood 12.12  Screeching seagulls claimed the fields where a few remaining horses stood to get their feet wet.

The raised path I had walked a couple of weeks ago is part of the Castleman Trailway, which, turning right along the river, I wished to explore further.  This follows the Southampton to Dorchester Railway Company’s now obsolete line.  The railway branch line was another of the casualties of the Beeching axe of 1964.  The Trailway runs from Salisbury to Poole.  If you can find it, you can walk it.  My regular readers will expect me to have had trouble finding it.  I did not let them down.  Passing the still drowned garden I had first seen on 30th November, I soon came to Hurn Lane.  No continuing footpath, just Hurn Lane, a great big roundabout, that and another road to cross, having walked under the A31.  No Trailway sign.  Just the roar of heavy traffic.  I walked on a bit, looking this way, and that, and the other, puzzled.  I asked a woman for directions to the trail.  ‘Where do you want to get to?’, she asked, and seemed somewhat nonplussed when I replied that anywhere would do.  I clarified matters by saying I was new to the area and just exploring.  She pointed back the way I had come.  I had to explain that and say I wanted the other direction.  She then proceeded, augmenting her verbal instructions with clear pointing, to lead me in exactly the opposite direction to the one in which I needed to go.  Very soon I was dicing with death on the A31.

Back I tracked to the place where I had asked directions, and asked another couple.  They were going there themselves, did it regularly, and wondered why the signs ran out when they did.  ‘Someone ought to tell them’, the man said.  So, if ‘them’ are reading this, please take note.  Before the next sign appeared we had crossed two roads and walked round a left hand bend.  It was not visible from the direction in which I had first been led.

Couple on Castleman Trailway 12.12My guides walked on ahead as I rambled.  Some way along the trail I took a comparatively dry path up into trees and heathland which I traversed for a while before taking a very muddy track down, which led me to a ditch I had to leap across to get back to the trail.  I retraced my steps to meet Jackie. Himalayan Balsam 12.12 Beside the Ringwood part of the trail is posted a laminated sign asking walkers to uproot the menace that is Himalayan Balsam.

Had I met the couple before the first woman, or had the signing of the Trailway not petered out I would not have gone on a false trail as I would have been led only in one direction.  My title for today’s adventure was inspired by an exchange with Louisa who had posted on Facebook that her 5 and 3 year old daughters were walking around the house singing songs from One Direction, the latest boy band.  When I had asked whether the songs were anything to do with The X factor, she had told me they were by this band, and added ‘get with it Dad’.  Well, I’ll have you know, my darling girl, they came third in that programme in 2010.

We had a light salad this evening before going off to The Amberwood pub quiz, which we won.