“If I’d Known How Long They Lived I’d Never Have Married You”

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This morning the warm sun shone from a cloudy sky; this evening, still warm, the sun shone from a clear blue sky; this afternoon the sky was overcast. There are no prizes for guessing when we took a drive into the forest.

The first troop of animals that occupy the road was of sheep at Bramshaw. All but one left the green pitted with their hoof prints, some of which were water-filled. I made the mistake of setting out across this poxy terrain. This, in my current wobbly condition, caused Jackie, waiting in the car,  some consternation.

I could really identify with one lame, bleating, creature, left alone to limp over to join its companions.

Further on, it was the turn of muddy cattle, cropping hedges, standing and staring on the winding, undulating, road, or wallowing in ditches, to disrupt the traffic.

Donkeys took up the baton at Frogham. Like yesterday’s pony a little white foal nudged its mother’s furry flanks,

took an inquisitive look at me, and had a good scratch. At this point I indulged in a pleasant conversation with a farmer who pointed out that the mother was in need of a good hoof trim. When the lady had married her husband she had owned six donkeys. Her husband had said that had he known how long they lived he would never have married her.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s splendid chicken jalfrezi and pilau rice. On the patio beforehand the Culinary Queen had drunk her Hoegaarden and I had finished the Paniza. I did, however, have a glass of Lellei 2015, a very quaffable Hungarian pinot noir from Lidl with my meal.

 

The Grass Is Greener

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“We must find a lamb,” announced Jackie this morning. “To prove it is Spring”.

So we did. Quite a few in fact. This wasn’t very difficult given that Christchurch Road is flanked by fields full of them. The farmer appeared to be conducting an inventory. The golden heap in the fourth picture is gravel from New Milton Sand And Gravel.

On such a morning it was a pleasure to continue up to Hockey’s Farm Shop at Gorley Lynch for brunch. Ponies were out in their multitudes today. This group on Holmsley Road couldn’t make up their minds on which side of the road they wanted to take up residence. We thought it best to stop until they had decided.

Many players were out on the Burley golf course, where, to complete a round, they must wheel their clubs across the main road.

Donkeys breakfasted from the middle of the thoroughfare at Rockford Green, while another, oblivious of a passing cyclist, took up her stance on a junction at South Gorley.

Chestnut ponies at Gorley Lynch, having slaked their thirsts in the full ditches, set off down the road to cross at a well-trodden path. One, skirting a welly atop a traffic cone, created a mighty thud as it leapt the ditch and set off in pursuit of its companions. I exchanged pleasantries with the walker being followed by three cyclists. Jackie informed me afterwards that she had waited patiently behind me whilst I wielded my camera. I hope the young woman hadn’t wondered why I hadn’t thanked her.

The paddocks at the farm were, as usual, shared by donkeys and alpacas. One of the latter animals knew very well that the grass is greener on the other side, and seemed determined to taste it.

Not every pony we saw was exercising its right to dominate different road users. Others, occasionally outlined on hillsides, occupied the moors. The one pictured here with its legs in the air is not dead. It is rolling on the grass in order to dislodge something irritating.

For our dinner this evening Jackie produced spicy piri-piri chicken, soft sautéed leek and peppers, and colourful vegetable rice. She drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Azinhaga Portuguese red wine.

Giving It Some Welly

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Dawn

This morning’s dawn promised a better day than forecast.

And so it proved, at least for the first hour or so. I took an early ramble round the garden on which more light was cast than yesterday. This brought forth an open-mouthed gape from a bespectacled gentleman atop the skeletal honesty in the Weeping Birch Bed.

Camellias and hellebores were nicely backlit in some areas.

Garden view from Fiveways

Here is the view from Fiveways;

Daffodils, hellebores, allium, and bergenia

bergenia, daffodils, and hellebores in a corner of the Dead End Path;

and more hellebores, alliums, and vincas.

Daphne odora Aureomarginata

Jackie is particularly delighted with the daphne odora Aureomarginata that she put in last year. It is apparently quite a fussy plant.

When shopping at Lidl this morning, Jackie had spotted that the supermarket was selling very reasonably priced wheelbarrows. She drove me back there to buy one. After this we travelled on to Friars Cliff for me to post, into one of the beach huts, the prints I had made of photographs taken of two little girls on the beach on 24th February.

On one side of Christchurch Road stretches a number of extensive fields which, at this time of the year are occupied by hundreds of ewes and lambs. On the other, in front of a farmhouse, is a much smaller rectangular enclosure, not much more than a fold, really. We have always thought of that as the nursery for very newborn lambs before their decanting across the road. Today we saw confirmation of this.

The most recent arrivals and their mothers could be seen through the fencing bars. The rolled folds in the babies’ skin demonstrated their newness. Already, just like the grown sheep, they were stamped with identification numbers.

Even so young, some of the lambs were as inquisitive as the ewes,

whereas others and their mothers were not quite so sure.

As we arrived, a farmer drove a large tractor and long trailer from the farmyard, around a bend in the road, and through an open gate into the field opposite. He proceeded to unload his cargo of ewes and their lambs,

Ewes and lambs 1

which were very soon suckling fit to fill out those rolls of skin.

Unloading ewes and lambs 7

The farmer was very gentle with his charges, even when offering a whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘giving it some welly’, as he encouraged a reluctant little one to join its patiently waiting mother.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s pasta arrabbiata, sugar snap peas, and rocket salad, followed by tiramisu. I drank more of the Fleurie and the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden.

A Bright New Morning

Yesterday afternoon Saufiene visited with an electrician to repair disintegrated wiring to the landing lamp.

In the evening Roger collected me and drove me to the Munns’ idyllic home on a hill above Eymet. From the main road, across the valley, the white new rendering of the tall house with its red-brown tower shone in the evening sunshine. Pink-tinged clouds strolled across the calm skies. When the forthcoming Tour de France takes place, my friends will be able, from their verandah, to watch the cyclists speeding along this very thoroughfare.

Judith, looking trim, her garments covered by a full-length apron, was putting the finishing touches to a superb Sunday dinner. Keith joined us and we sat down to tender slow-roasted pork with prunes; crisp vegetables; perfect roast potatoes and parsnips. I slowed the proceedings a little by devouring a secon helping. Judith’s apple pie was to die for. Supplementing their own apples were cinnamon, cloves, mincemeat, and sultanas in an attractive pastry casing. None of us had room for cheese. We all drank red wine and enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation after which Keith kindly drove me home.

fishing lake 1This morning I walked the loop around what I still call the donkey’s field on the D17, returning via the fishing lake. Sun shone in the cloudless blue sky, although it was still rather cool. In the clear light I took a number of photographs which I hope to add when I return to my iMac.

Church bells rang the hour, a cock crew, geese cackled, a magpie rattled, and dogs barked.

The eyes of a small black cat, crouched in the grass of the field that was once home to the donkey and goats, beamed like a car’s headlamps, returning the sun’s gleam. Fishing lake 2Further along, a camel-coloured relative had not made it across the road. The field now contains a couple of ewes with muddy backsides.

Chateau Cluzeau

High on its hill, beyond a waterlogged field, Chateau Cluzeau was still visible through a row of as yet leafless trees. Later, I was to look down on its silhouette.

Tractor and car negotiating passage

A tractor and a small car negotiated their passing on the narrow lane where I turn left for my return journey. This was reminiscent of trips through the New Forest.

The dogs that normally herald my passing along the top of the high track were unusually silently watchful. The alsatian’s gate was open so I was rather relieved at its unaccustomed lack of interest.

New house

The house I have watched being built over the last couple of years now looks complete.

Catkins

Paths around the lake were more than a little muddy, reminding me of how slippery my MBTs can be. I didn’t fall over.

PigeonnierRuelleAs I approached the steps leading down to where the bottle banks used to be, I exchanged greetings with three gentlemen whose voices had floated towards me; and with a young man with a long shovel mixing heavy cement in a wheelbarrow as he prepared to repair the steps.

A superb onion soup in Le Code Bar today came with croutons and slices of garlic, the delicious fumes of which rose from the bowl. Surprisingly flavoursome calamari was then served with a rich tomato dip. The main course was a succulent steak with lashings of glistening tornellini. The meal was completed by Paris-Brest, a small cake containing coffee cream. I drank a coffee as I wrote this post.