More Changeable Weather

Much more rain, with the occasional spell of sunshine, fell today.

We spent the morning talking with Flo and Dillon about their trip to Scotland and their hopes of buying a wonderful chunk of the Highlands.

In the afternoon en route to Shelly’s birthday party at Walkford we added our own spray showers to the verges, their drains regurgitating the water which was beyond their capacity to absorb, distributed by vehicles we were following.

There was a good family gathering at Jackie’s sister’s celebration at which a bunch of us watched the Rugby World Cup warm up match between Fiji and England.

On our return home I photographed a couple of views from my sitting room window then, before dinner

wandered around a damp garden with my camera. Each image bears a title in the gallery

We dined on racks of pork spare ribs and Jackie’s special fried rice, with which she drank McGuigan’s Black Label Chardonnay 2022, and I drank François Dubessy GSM 2021.

At The Tea Interval

On a drab, drearily dull, day I tuned into the start of the second cricket Test Match between England and New Zealand, and scanned eight more of Charles Keeping’s excellent illustrations to Charles Dickens’s ‘Nicholas Nickleby’.

In turning ‘Nicholas found Bray lying on the floor quite dead, and his daughter clinging to the body’ upside down, Charles Keeping has given the image an additionally morbid perspective.

‘Mrs Nickleby would draw up a chair and run through a great variety of distracting topics in the most distracting manner possible’

In ‘Some of the neighbours threw up their windows and called across the street to each other’ the artist has sprawled across two pages, symbolising the crossing of the street.

‘As they stole further and further in, the old hag and Squeers were busily occupied with their tasks’ gives Keeping the opportunity to display perspective by having the foreground figure burst from the frame.

‘With eyes almost starting from their sockets, and in a fit of trembling which quite convulsed his frame, Smile was shrieking to him for help’

Keeping’s trademark dog in the street appears in the foreground of ‘To Gride’s house Ralph directed his steps, now thoroughly alarmed and fearful’

‘Ralph sat down, pressing his two hands upon his temples’

‘ ‘That’s my own brave Kate!’ said Nicholas, pressing her to his breast’

During the cricket tea interval and for a while afterwards I cleared and transferred to the compost bins some of Jackie’s weeding refuse, then wandered around with my camera.

Jackie continued planting hanging baskets and other containers

on the patio.

Other views include those beside the wisteria and along the Shady Path, where, beyond the shot containing the Arthur Bell rose,

a red climber stands over a spanning wooden arch;

the peeling bark of the eucalyptus; from Margery’s poppies through the Cryptomeria Bed; and

the Rose Garden, including

pink Mum in a Million, peach Flower Power, white Winchester Cathedral, yellow Crown Princess Margareta and Absolutely Fabulous, red and pink For Your Eyes Only, white Kent carpet rose, and pink Festive Jewel.

This evening we dined on succulent lemon chicken and roast potatoes; crisp Yorkshire pudding; firm carrots and broccoli, with tasty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Cotes de Gascogne.

In The Blink Of An Eye

This morning I was lulled into enough of a false sense of security to imagine that, although the heavy winds that have beset us during the last two days and the rain had desisted, the storm may be over.

The late or very early blooming gladiolus, bowed but not broken, rested on Delta’s Sarah fuchsia now basking in sunshine.

Other fuchsias, such as Mrs Popple, Hawkshead, and Army Nurse continue to thrive.

As I wandered around in the glinting sunlight which licked the eucalyptus stems, the grasses and cordyline Australis, and the lingering beech leaves, I grew in confidence of an unexpectedly fine day. Madame Alfred Carriere shared the entrance to the Rose Garden with Summer Wine hips, while Paul’s Scarlet still soared above the wisteria arbour. The house formed a bright backdrop to the view from the red carpet rose in the Rose Garden.

The fallen pot and trug were easily righted, which is more than could be said for Aaron’s truck which had broken down as he tried to leave yesterday. After an hour he sought our blessing to leave it where it was, which of course we gave.

After lunch, in the blink of an eye, the rain returned.

A few more minutes’ respite was soon granted, after which the wind and rain continued to do their worst to blow our house down.

For tonight’s dinner Jackie produced a delicious beef and mushroom pie with boiled potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, and runner beans. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the La Repasse.

Scents

On a sunny and mild morning I spent some time dead heading and transporting clippings to the compost bins.

Jackie pruned and tidied the lawn area, keeping me supplied with bags of refuse.

The eucalyptus has now been adorned with its pendant baskets.

Nugget played his game in “Where’s Nugget?” (84) and (85). A click on either image will access the gallery each picture of which can be viewed full size by clicking the box beneath it on the right and further enhanced if necessary.

Later, Jackie added twelve begonias to the now weeded bed above. This activity, of course, produced more robin fodder.

My dead heading took me through the Back Drive entrance arch scaled by clematis Margaret Hunt and along these borders containing fuchsias, poppies, antirrhinums, phlomis, and much more.

In the Rose Garden I focussed on the strongly scented Absolutely Fabulous, Deep Secret still bearing the raindrops that fell overnight, and Crown Princess Margareta; the bright magenta petunias in the urn; and the gentler, drifting, scent of Rosa Gallica.

Elsewhere the red bottle brush plants and various hemerocallises bloom.

It is well known that Jackie finds birds becoming imprinted on her.

What do I find?

Well, this afternoon, as I left the kitchen to offer the Head Gardener some water, I heard a buzzing in my hair, which has not been cut since the lockdown began. I could feel nothing, but gave it a good finger rake and shook it all about. I walked through the garden, still hearing buzzing. I raked once more. I returned to the house, poured some water for Jackie, carried it outside, returned, and settled with Virginia Wolf on my lap.

A fat, drowsy, bee dropped from my locks onto my shoulder. I flicked it into the fireplace and forgot about it. It must have been three quarters of an hour later when the creature clutched at my T-shirt. This time I flicked it onto the carpet and continued with my book.

When Jackie came in it was still crawling about. With the aid of a glass and a birthday card she carried it into the garden whereupon it flew into a spider’s web. You just can’t help some people.

After the excitement we dined on Jackie’s super spicy chilli con carne with her flavoursome savoury rice, with which she drank Becks and I drank more of the Douro.

“Not Much Room For Mushrooms”

Shortly after dawn this morning the sun, rising in the east, began to light the tips of the garden trees.

These views from the back bedroom windows particularly highlight the sweet smelling cordyline Australis; the blossoming eucalyptus; the yellow bottle brush plant; the Wedding Day rose draped over the Agriframes Arch; and pink pelargoniums.

From the front we look down on two different pink climbing roses and more pelargoniums.

Aaron having broadened the bed bordering the lawn yesterday, Jackie spent the morning placing her mushrooms in their permanent home. First she took some plastic pot saucers and pierced them with holes; the trays were filled with gravel for drainage to protect the fabulous fungi from rot; all three were firmly embedded. The daisy-like erigerons will cover the gravel to provide a natural setting. Gnomes will not be welcome.

When I mentioned to Jackie that I was struggling to think of an apt title, she said: “Not much room for mushrooms”, which I would have been proud of myself.

Later I e-mailed these two pictures to https://www.facebook.com/blackstonechalk/ who had made the carvings from recycled ash.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s toothsome beef and mushroom pie; crisp roast potatoes, some of which were sweet; crunchy carrots and broccoli; and tender green beans, with tasty gravy. The Culinary Queen drank Becks while I quaffed more of the Fleurie.

The Nuggets

Today the sun took a breather and the wind gradually increased.

This morning Aaron brandished a bramble he had found growing in one of our dead stumps.

Yesterday Jackie had photographed

the viburnum plicatum sprawling across the West Bed;

the Brick Path;

the view from the lawn looking past the eucalyptus and through the gazebo;

and a group of poppies, irises, and honesty brightening a corner of the Phantom Path.

Intending to weed it today, she also produced one of her “before” images of the brick section of the Oval Path.

In the event, Aaron did the weeding and I photographed the result

I printed our friend copies of the bramble picture above, and one of him mowing Laraine and David’s lawn next door.

Then, following John Knifton’s suggestion, I made an A3 print of the VE Day Street Party featured yesterday. Framing will need to wait until the lockdown has ended.

During a telephone conversation with Mum she told me that the outfits she had made for Chris and me for that occasion would not have been velvet as I had thought, because that would have been too heavy. It would have been material from her “rag bag” – probably an old coat. Her method was to turn the worn out garments inside out and wash them before creating the new ones. She explained that the reverse side of the material then looked in pristine condition – something that would not be possible today. As I reminded her the washing would have been done by hand, because she had no washing machine.

This afternoon Jackie was again beset by members of the Nugget family.

The only one who stayed for a chat when I was poised with my camera was Nugget himself.

We may be in a position of referring to the family as The Nuggets  in memory of

https://youtu.be/KnLhCXo_xfM

from the 1940s and ’50s.

Mrs Huggett was played by Kathleen Harrison who lived to be 105, and who Jackie knew in her last few years.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s rich red spicy pasta arrabbiata with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Carinena El Zumbido Garnacha Syrah 2018.

 

 

Antipodean Visitors

Warm sunshine was the order of the day.

Jackie spent much time in shade tending to potted plants, many of which have survived the winter but needed shaves and haircuts.

She has suspended some of these from the lopped cypress.

My contribution to the general maintenance was a little watering, weeding, and transporting debris to the compost bin.

Our first peony blooms are appearing

as are those of roses Emily Gray

and Félicité Perpétue, both along the back drive

which also sports splendid hawthorns.

Our Antipodean visitors include the bark-shedding eucalyptus,

several sculptural New Zealand flaxes,

and the Cordyline Australis now sending forth its bud stems.

Small white butterflies flutter everywhere at the moment. This one had the decency to keep still for a moment.

Currently flourishing clematises include the bosomy Marie Boisselot;

the robust Dr Ruppel;

the novel Daniel Deronda:

and this anonymous character.

This radiant rhododendron refreshes the Palm Bed.

Nugget and Lady continue jointly to feed their brood. It is now really only behaviour that enables us to distinguish between them. For example when one drops down onto the wheelbarrow with which Jackie is working, something with wings in his beak, cocks his head on one side; inspects the offerings she has on display, and flies off in disinterest, that is undoubtedly our friend.

I am fairly sure this in Nugget perched on his favourite patio chair.

The pair of them were collecting suet pellets at this point. Unfortunately I only photographed one of them. Nugget, we think.

Later this afternoon a fledgling robin swooped after Jackie as she entered the rose garden and began tipping spent compost onto the beds for mulch. In a flash this baby cocked his head and began the investigations exactly as his father had done a year ago. Soon we really will have an identification problem.

This evening we dined on more of yesterday’s crusty bread with her wholesome soup of chicken and bacon added to the Culinary Queen’s vegetable base.

An Appeal For Help

This morning was wet and dull.

Light rain glistened on the dimly lit garden foliage seen from the bedroom windows.

After lunch the sun smiled down and spread a little joy.

It was warm enough for Aaron to mow Mistletoe Cottage’s lawn wearing a T-shirt.

I wandered around at ground level noting roses including

Peach Abundance,

Margaret Merrill,

and Festive Jewel:

 

fuchsias such as Delta’s Sarah:

and the flowering pieris piercing the lawn.

Iris Reticulatas have penetrated the Weeping Birch Bed at the point where the honesty blooms are giving way to the soon to be transparent seed medallions.

Brightly burnished blowflies’ metallic blue bodies mutated into rusty red.

In the meantime Nugget continues his parental duties. So diligently is he zooming backwards and forwards to his nest which may well be in the garden of North Breeze, that he has lost interest in hiding. If his family is domiciled on our neighbour’s property, we will not consider him disloyal because we know that avian boundaries are not the same as ours.

“Where’s Nugget?” (76)

This afternoon, in order to prevent bigger birds from snaffling our robin’s food, Jackie had wired up the outside of their feeder, leaving a robin sized access hole.

While I watched the news this evening, Jackie sat with a glass of Heineken on the patio.

Suddenly Nugget perched, chirping, on the back of the chair next to her. She turned. They made eye contact. Her familiar cocked his to one side and continued tweeting.

“What is it?”, Jackie asked.

A pause. She then said “I know. I’ll come and sort it out.”

He flew ahead of her, stopped in the centre of the path outside the kitchen window, and continued to call until she got up and followed him.

Still flying ahead of Jackie, he perched in the wisteria, waiting while she removed the chicken wire from his larder.

He flew past her head, chirruped his thanks, entered the container, and sped off to feed his brood.

After this we dined on roast pork, chipolata sausages, piquant cauliflower cheese, carrots, broccoli and cabbage with which Jackie continued her Hoegaarden and I finished the Fleurie.

 

 

 

Cleaning Out The Frog Pond

Jackie spent most of this gloriously sunny and warm spring day working in the garden.

In the front she photographed budding Amanogawa

and crab apple blossom,

and a row of different coloured cyclamens.

I took tours before and after lunch, choosing to focus first on a variety of daffodils;

these, alongside the Dead End Path, are strongly scented and aptly named Park Perfume;

 

iberis cascades over the New Bed wall in front of more;

nodding to the dreaded all-pervading white allium another masquerades as a cheery scarecrow.

The sunshine has encouraged one of yesterday’s tulips to open wider,

to blend nicely with these marigolds.

Camellias continue to shine and to discard their heavy blooms, some of which persist in

growing old gracefully.

Varieties of wallflowers are blooming;

these yellow ones kneel at the feet of euphorbia in the back drive border.

Honesty is bursting out all over. It will be a brave individual who sits on this chair in the Weeping Birch Bed.

The burnished Japanese maple near the Fiveways corner

takes the eye across the Gazebo Path to North Breeze,

skirting the peeling-pastel-sheathed eucalyptus on the lawn, beside which

clematis Cirrhosa Freckles still festoons the iron gazebo.

Looking south east from the above-mentioned maple takes us into the Rose Garden whence

we have a view towards the house. I will be in dire trouble for leaving that blue plastic trug in the shot.

Given that during the Covid-19 pandemic bedding plants cannot be purchased

Jackie’s pelargonium cuttings in the greenhouse are even more important than usual this year.

They are even attracting ladybirds.

 

This view from the Kitchen Bed leads to the Nottingham Castle bench;

this one across to the greenhouse.

It is through a kitchen window that I managed to catch Burt, the long tailed tit, playing on his honeysuckle trellis. Like a child who will run endlessly up the steps for another go on a slide, Burt swung through the air time and again, incessantly hopping back up for a repeat performance. The bird can be seen peering in beside the window catch – it is well worth bigifying.

The Head Gardener’s main task today was cleaning out the weedy Frog Pond. This is how she pictured it this morning,

and this with clear reflective water this afternoon.

This evening we dined on roast duck breasts; roast new potatoes; meaty sausages and fried onions; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; and tender cabbage, leeks, and runner beans, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Shiraz.

 

 

 

 

Swooping And Squabbling

All was still and bright in the garden today when we began the post-storm recovery.

We didn’t manage the patio area, which won’t take long tomorrow.

Aaron righted the Rose Garden arch, with minimal discomfort to Crown Princess Margareta and Zefirini Drouhin.

The Phantom Path;

the Gazebo Path;

views from the Kitchen Bed,

from the Shady Path,

from the Palm Bed,

towards the Rose Garden from the corner of the Phantom Path, are now less cluttered.

Some hanging baskets, like these suspended from the eucalyptus, have been righted.

In order to prevent loosening of the rose roots from further winds, Jackie has begun their winter pruning.

Nugget, of course, could not keep his beak out of the process. Yes – he and Muggle are both alive and well.

“Where’s Nugget?” (42)

Late this afternoon we took a drive into the forest. Given that a woman had been killed not far away yesterday by a tree falling on her car it had been a good decision not to risk it ourselves.

Moody skycapes loomed above Beaulieu Heath

and Hatchet Pond,

casting reflections on the water

over which greedy gulls swooped and squabbled.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s especially spicy lamb jalfrezi with pilau rice, vegetable samosas, and plain parathas with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Fleurie.