Chances Of Making It Through Christmas

This Wednesday weather was warm, wet, yet unwilling to welcome the slightest sign of sunshine.
Jackie and I visited Lyndurst for a little Christmas shopping then enjoyed

brunch at Lyndhurst Tea Rooms, after which we took a trip by car into the dripping forest.

A clutch of chickens at East Boldre

gave the cold shoulder to

a pair of geese who were no doubt discussing their chances of making it through Christmas.

Peering through the misty precipitation from the end of Tanner’s Lane I presumed that EU regulations have not  restricted the activities of the sole fishing boat trawling  The Solent at that point.

On such a day as this, loggers burning branches at Norley Wood surely had no need of the flames to keep them warm.

A string of ponies blocking the road at Pilley conveniently stepped aside, just giving me time to bring up the tail.

We retuned home via Burnt House Lane, where there was no flame in sight.

Tomorrow morning, Elizabeth will be driving Mum to a respite care home in Netley. In readiness for this, friends Pauline and Jo sent Elizabeth this photograph, attached to a text with the caption

Cheering up your Mum.

On the wall to the far right of this picture is a charcoal portrait of Elizabeth watching our first television that I made about 60 years ago.
This evening we dined on smoked haddock; creamy mashed potatoes; piquant cauliflower cheese; moist ratatouille; crisp carrots; and tender runner beans. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and Elizabeth and I drank Western Cape Malbec 2018.

Pruning Service


The landscape around Brockenhurst remained pretty waterlogged when we visited it this morning.

Even though the day was dull, trees were reflected in the pools.

Walking with ponies

A small group walked along a pitted track leading to a made-up road, enabling a couple of youngsters to ride ponies.

Most home owners in the New Forest, in order to stem equine invasion, keep their gates closed, and have cattle grids fitted. Not so one house for the sale at the end of this road.

A pair of donkeys had wandered in and set about an uninvited pruning service. Not, of course, until I had taken a few photographs, and after the animals stretched over the fence to set about next door’s shrubs, I knocked at both doors. Neither produced a response. I left the animals to it. The male, who appears in most of these images, wandered out and stood in the middle of the road. A woman from Hornchurch, who was down for the weekend was quite concerned for the creature’s safety. We had a very pleasant conversation in which I explained that the asses were not in danger as they had the right of way.

This afternoon I watched ITV’s coverage of the Six Nations rugby match between Italy and France in Rome; and of England’s game against Scotland at Twickenham.

This evening we dined on a rack of pork ribs with Jackie’s superb egg fried rice, green beans and sugar snaps with which I drank more of the bordeaux.

Our friend, Ginene Angel of, has asked for the publication of our new fire at night.


Here it is Ginene.

The Mist Did Not Desist



This morning, the temperature having dropped ten degrees, we lit the fire.

Smoke from chimney

Barry the sweep has said he will expect to see smoke from the chimney when he drives by. Set against a misty, overcast, sky, he will perhaps have difficulty seeing this today. Our mix of coal and logs produced a really powerful heat.

I bought the cast iron coal scuttle in a Newark antiques centre almost thirty years ago. I used it in my study to keep coal. I have been unable to verify the dealer’s implausible and certainly impractical claim that it was an antique Belgian commode. Jackie will now have to find something else in which to store her potatoes.

By mid-afternoon when we drove out to Mudeford, the mist had persisted.

We diverted to Highcliffe Castle en route, for some atmospheric shots.

Although visibility was greater in Mudeford harbour, boats and houses looked rather gloomy,

as did beach huts

and associated buildings.

Buoys rested on slate.

Highcliffe Sailing Club and the masts of its yachts were somewhat obscured.

Dripping gulls looked somewhat under the weather.

Fishing paraphernalia displayed muted colour,

Group on quay

as did a group of hardy visitors. The mist did not desist.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s excellent chicken jalfrezi and mushroom rice with onion bahjis. I drank Château Plessis grand vin de Bordeaux 2014.

We are now about to watch the Six Nations rugby match at Cardiff between Wales and Ireland to be televised by BBC.

Pushmi – Pullyu


Yesterday, Jackie made an unfortunate discovery in the Weeping Birch Bed. Roughly half this plot has been raised on top of the concreted area that we think must have been laid for Post Office vans in the past. It was therefore only a few inches deep. This also explains why water escapes from the un-cemented brick retaining wall. This meant that the border of the back drive had to be further plundered to lift the level. The Head Gardener began the task yesterday and I finished it this morning. The toad that I disturbed hopped away at the speed of an Olympic athlete. The warm weather must have kept it awake.

Jackie planting chrysanthemums

This afternoon I supported Jackie in replenishing this bed. She made a support for the honeysuckle, plonked a fuchsia, and planted various smaller plants, such as yellow chrysanthemums. I helped spread the new topsoil, dead-headed some roses, and divided the libertia.

Libertia division

UnknownThis latter task required the application of two forks in  emulation of Dr Dolittle’s Pushmi – pullyu; the insertion of a fairly useless sharp knife; and strenuous manual prising and tugging.

For those unfamiliar with this creature, Wikipedia informs us  that ‘the pushmi-pullyu (pronounced “push-me—pull-you”) is a “gazelle-unicorn cross” which has two heads (one of each) at opposite ends of its body. In The Story of Doctor Dolittle, the grateful monkeys in Africa persuade it to accompany Dr. Dolittle to England to earn money for him (in Doctor Dolittle’s Circus and Doctor Dolittle’s Caravan.) The pushmi-pullyu usually only uses one of its heads to talk, reserving the other for eating (thus allowing it to eat while speaking without being rude) and claims that its great-grandfather was the last unicorn.

In the 1967 film, the pushmi-pullyu was instead portrayed as a double-headed llama. The doctor can immediately speak to the pushmi-pullyu, knowing that llamas speak a dialect of camel language.’

I did my best to persuade the garden’s insect life that we are now into October, but they just carried on regardless. Perhaps the talking llama could have interpreted for me.

Honey bee drinking from verbena bonarensis

This honey bee simply continued siphoning nectar from a verbena bonarensis.

This evening I burnt much of the recent clippings in the incinerator.

Sunset and bonfire

The rays of the setting sun frolicked with the smoke from the fire.

As is often so, Jackie made enough sausage casserole yesterday for several meals. I was more than happy to sample it again today, with crisp carrots and cabbage, and creamy mashed potato. We had both enjoyed a beer whilst watching the incinerator, so we abstained from drinking with the meal.

Now I am going to watch a recording which will let me know how Wales got on against Fiji in the Rugby World Cup.


Aaron 1

AaronAaron came today to continue completing my work on the back drive. He was as quick, efficient, and neat as usual. This young man certainly gets through a phenomenal amount of work in a day.

Jackie had a better memory of our ‘Engagement’ outing. I appended her Facebook comment as an informative P.S. to that post.

I then spent the morning scanning 36 colour slides from our four day honeymoon in March 1968. In ‘Tales From The Window Sills’ and ‘The Watchers Watched’ I have described and illustrated aspects of this holiday in Ockley. The first of these mentions the deserted house, and the second the fire.

Jackie 3.68 006


Jackie 3.68 001Jackie 3.68 016 - Version 2Jackie 3.68 010 - Version 2Jackie and cow byre 3.68Tiled wall  3.68Jackie 3.68 011Jackie's legs and driftwood 3.68reeds 3.68The King’s Arms, where we stayed, is a 16th century coaching inn with attractive beamed walls and ceilings. We took all our meals at the hostelry and spent the days exploring the environment, the farms, the fields, a lake, and the churchyard.Ockley Church 3.68 002Ockley Church 3.68

We wonder what has happened to the deserted house that fascinated us so much.Deserted house 3.68Window of deserted house 3.68Jackie 3.68 018

The one event that seemed to draw out the whole village, streaming past the derelict home, from which it was visible, was the exciting fire which, at first, seemed to be engulfing a rather grand house, but transpired to be burning a shed.Fire 3.68 002Fire 3.68 001

The fire brigade were called and dealt with it quite swiftly.

Fire Brigade 3.68

This afternoon I watched England beat Italy 47-17 and Ireland beat France 18-11 in the Six Nations rugby tournament.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s classic chicken jalfrezi and savoury rice, followed by apple crumble and custard. We both drank Kingfisher, neither of us finishing a bottle. Never mind, we both continue to improve.

P.S. Update on the deserted house, from Jackie’s Facebook comment:  ‘Having driven fairly regularly past this house over the years, I can report that altho’ it has lost some of it’s character, it still exists, and houses on this prestigious Surrey village green cost an absolute fortune (close to £1,000000!). It was a distant village in 1968, but with rail and road connections so improved, it is now considered to be within working distance of London so commands premium prices. It is a shame really as the whole village is now full of very rich people and does not have the character of the 1968 village we knew. Even the wonderful village store, that sold everything (even leather boot laces for farmers’ boots) has been converted into a very posh dwelling.’

The Watchers Watched

Including strimming the grass, Jackie continued with general gardening this morning whilst I scanned the last ten of the photographs for Norman’s book, retouched the images, and made a dozen prints. The quality of these large-format negatives dating back to 1957 is very good.
One could hardly call the creative task Jackie finished this evening ‘general gardening’.

She completed a completely new path to the orange shed, obviating the need to deviate through the kitchen garden arch.

This afternoon and evening I burnt more of the heap of cuttings. Having aimed to complete the task, I had to concede defeat.
Fires have a profound fascination for most people. This is why it is a shame that city living in particular militates against the open hearths of my childhood. Watching flames and seeing pictures in them was almost better than the television that, in modern homes, has taken the place of the grate as a focal point.
A bonfire holds a similar amount of interest as the flames lick, the smoke curls, the foliage sizzles, and the branches snap and fall, changing the framework of the image in a flash.

My evening bonfire’s thin clouds of smoke were striated by the rays of the lowering sun.
As we experienced during our Ockley holiday in March 1968, what really draws the crowds is an unexpected fire that spells potential disaster for someone. While we were exploring the deserted house featured on the 18th of this month, we noticed crowds gathering around what looked like a rather attractive house on fire. Naturally, there was a certain amount of disappointment when

the conflagration was discovered to be a burning shed. Nevertheless, I was there with my camera. After taking a few shots I returned to the

upper floor of the empty property, where I could discreetly watch the watchers. Jackie stands a little aside from the others, bounded by an attractive window frame. The fire brigade eventually arrived and the spectators were able to watch them smartly move into action and dowse the flames.
Our dinner this evening was Jackie’s spicy chilli con carne (recipe) with wild rice, followed by gooseberry and apple crumble with custard in my case, and cream in hers. We both drank lambrusco Emilia reservato 2012.