An Unexpected Portrait

Yesterday, by a narrow margin, Ireland won their rugby match against France. This was an excellent contest, and secured the championship for the victors. It went down very well in the Irish evening in support of CAFOD, which we attended with Helen and Bill, Shelly and Ron.
Catholic Aid For Overseas Development is an official agency representing England and Wales. It exists to help third world countries to become self-sufficient in feeding themselves.
Hopefully the evening made a reasonable contribution to the cause. It was certainly enjoyed by people of all ages. Lynden and Clive provided an excellent calling service for the barn dancing which was enjoyed by three-year-olds and those a good seventy years older. The star of the show was Titus, probably the youngest, who was adopted as her partner by the caller, and kept going until the evening ended at 10 p.m.
We were greeted by Helen and her colleagues ladling out steaming platefuls of tender and tasty Irish stew with wedges of fresh, crusty, bread. No encouragement was needed for some of us to emulate Oliver Twist and present our plates for a second helping.  A gentleman in a fluorescent emerald green jacket managed the temporary bar and later presented the questions for the quiz that Helen had compiled. It was a shame Helen had produced the puzzles because that meant that our team were deprived of the input of Bill who would most certainly have lifted our table from its final sixth place.
Children placed a prompt card on each table, for a group performance of ‘Green Grow The Rushes O’. This is a traditional song involving each group at the appropriate intervals to repeat the refrain on their card. Our ensemble were rather chuffed to earn applause for our harmonising.
After the raffle, in which Bill won a Nivea product, we drove him home, leaving Helen, who had not stopped working all evening, to coordinate the clearing up.
This morning I wandered a wide loop around the forest opposite the end of Lower Drive, emerging at Suters Cottage and returning via London Minstead. This was the area I had explored in the mist of 21st January.
I have often wondered how it is that people can come into such a beautiful region and chuck rubbish out of their cars onto the forest verges.Budweiser bottles Today’s detritus included spent Budweiser bottles.Shadows on forest groundFallen tree shadows
Shadows on wooded slopeShadows crisscrossingSun through treesSunstar through tree - image of young womanThe forest looked so different today. Cast by the bright late morning sun shining through the trees, long shadows streamed across the shattered trunks and leaf-strewn terrain.
Sun stars were created throughout the area, none more dramatic than that providing a picture light for what appeared to be the portrait of a young woman etched on a trunk.
Holly regenerating

A blighted holly demonstrated nature’s powers of regeneration.

Forestry Commision gate

Several deer, as elusive as the ubiquitous brimstones that never seem to settle, streaked across the path beyond a Forestry Commission gate. Forest scapeI swear there were two of the butterflies in this forest scape when I pressed the shutter button.

Minstead Lodge

Minstead Lodge, not yet obscured by leaves, can still be seen in its lofty position above the road.

Orange tree and pony

The deciduous trees are beginning to come into leaf. Some of these take on a bright orange hue lending them a glow borrowed from the russet ponies,

When we first moved into our current home, the walls of the flat were occupied by the owner’s pictures. Carefully labelled by Jackie, we packed these up,stored them in a cupboard for access to which we needed a step-ladder, and replaced them with our own. This afternoon we reversed the process.

This evening Elizabeth and Danni joined us and my niece drove us all to Ringwood’s Curry Garden where we enjoyed the usual high standard meal with friendly and efficient service. The restaurant was very full.


On learning of my penchant for history, our friend Margery lent me ‘The Crusades’ by Thomas Asbridge.  I began reading it yesterday evening.

As I took a series of photographs in January 1965, at the ripe old age of 22, I thought: ‘these will be an historical record one day’. Churchill lying in state005 Now, nigh on 49 years later, they are.  I did not start illustrating these posts until June last year, so when I mentioned on 22nd May that I still had the colour slides I took of the queues for the lying in state of Sir Winston Churchill, I did not add them to the post. I rectified that this morning, by adding five.


Deer fleeingAfter this a deer made its quite slow, elegant, way across the lawn, until, disturbed by our attention, it fled into its bolt hole.

Gravel, pipes, and logsI then walked the two underpasses route, starting at the Malwood Farm end.  A summer’s usage by pedestrians and ponies has produced such reasonably clear footpaths as to make my earlier errant efforts at this trip during the waterlogged spring seem somewhat meandering.  The farm’s gravel heap is higher, harmonising even better with the pipes upon, and logs beside, it.  I reached the Rufus Stone car park in very quick time, just as Bob and Lyndon were preparing to move on.Bob and Lyndon  These two friendly men were volunteers for the Forestry Commission, engaged in litter picking.  I wondered if the family decanting from a car behind them might render some of their work in vain.  I spoke with them for a while, and told them I had seen their equivalent in Morden Hall Park last year.  They knew of the National Trust’s similar system.

Apples for the ponies

Outside Shovel Cottage in Minstead four apples placed on the verge of the road seemed to be harbingers of the season when local residents put out food for the struggling ponies.

Athelhampton Hall 3

Athelhampton HallAthelhampton hall 2At mid-day we set off, Jackie driving, to Athelhampton Hall in Dorset to visit the privately owned house and gardens. Dahlia It was a dull day and late in the year, but we saw enough of the splendidly designed gardens to know that they will look stunning in spring and summer, when we vowed to return. Athelhampton Hall and fountainFirst built in 1485, the house has undergone various embellishments over the centuries, yet remains beautifully integrated.

The garden has been so well designed that wherever you are positioned, as in an open plan house, you are led to another living area.  There almost seem to be more rooms in the garden than in the grand house, each one offering an invitation to another.  Fountains lineThere are more walls than in an open plan house, though.  Fountains abound.  Through one you can usually see another.  Dahlias, Rudbeckia, Rose alive and deadsunflowers, Hydrangea were blooming. HydrangeaRudbeckia Some roses were still at their best, usually with their companions’ petals carpeting the earth beneath them. Sweet Chestnut Sweet chestnut shells are developing to protect the nuts they nurture.

EucalyptusBoy with dog sculptureA thirty year old eucalyptus, in gentle pastel colours, sheds its bark and its leaves onto the brick paths around its base, two long roots stretching out like symmetrical tentacles. Jackie in pleached elms collonade There are a number of pleached lime colonnades.

The delightful boy with his dog was just one of the many sculptures enjoying the flowers.

Bridge over River PiddleA bridge in the grounds crosses the River Piddle.  (That just had to be done, didn’t it?)

Sunflower arch

GraffitiEn suite bathroomAt the entrance to the house I was intrigued by the dates of some of the graffiti.  Once inside, we were permitted to take photographs; could roam freely without having to follow a prescribed route; and could, it seemed, sit anywhere.

Copper bath

There were bathrooms of different periods, one containing a magnificent polished copper bath.  It had me wondering about the term ‘copper’ for a tub for washing clothes.  The state bedroom had what must have been a rather early en suite.

Staircase from King's Ante RoomSpiral StaircaseStaircases were from very different periods, and always intriguing.  One, an Elizabethan ammonite, led to the gallery where I discovered Marevna.  Marevna was a Russian painter who lived in the house from 1948 -1957. Pointillist portrait by Marevna She worked with all the great earlier twentieth century painters, her style embracing various forms, such as cubism and pointillism, to name just two I recognised.  Obviously a favourite model, her daughter Marika, was her child with Mexican artist Diego Rivera who, incidentally, numbered the brilliant Frida Kahlo among his many lovers. Marevna Gallery entrance At the top of the  spiral staircase lies the entrance to the gallery, through the door of which can be seen part of her ‘Homage to Friends from Montparnasse’ of 1961. The Great Court by Marevna Her painting of The Great Court hangs on a wall adjacent to one framing a window through which can be seen the real thing.

The Great Court from The Gallery

DerrickWhen, like father bear, I tested a very comfortable chair, and Jackie decided to photograph me in situ, she found herself at the head of a queue of would-be David Baileys.

After an uneventful drive back Jackie produced a meal of lamb and mint sausages, potato croquettes, onions, mushrooms, cauliflower, cabbage and peas.  It only needs a second’s power cut, to which we are prone, for the electric cooker to be thrown out.  By this, I mean, its operation is upset.  Mind you, it sometimes is at serious risk of being ejected through the kitchen window.  The instruction manual has to be consulted, and much fiddling undergone if the food is ever to burn.  We had one a couple of days ago.  However, it was sorted, otherwise we wouldn’t have had our sausages.  Mine went down well with the rest of yesterday’s Sicilian wine, and Jackie’s with her Belgian beer.

Shopping Early For Christmas

Forest, Running HillForest, Running Hill 2Today I walked straight across Running Hill at the end of Lower Drive into the forest.  The terrain dropped sharply and I was soon careering down the steeply undulating land, dodging trees above and around me, snapping fallen branches and rustling last autumn’s leaves underfoot, and listening to the roar of the A31.

Eventually the ground levelled off and became rather soggy. Gate A Forestry Commission pedestrian gate that looked as if it hadn’t been opened for some time, bore a notice asking walkers to close it.  It seemed a safe bet that there should be a path on the other side, although that was obscured by bracken. There was.  It was very damp and bore the telltale pony droppings.  It was as I was battling with the familiar mud suction that Mike Kindred chose to telephone me to express his appreciation of yesterday’s post reporting on  his latest book.  Someday I may write something about awkward moments at which my mobile has rung. (See also ‘They Do Pick Their Moments’ posted 10th May this year and ‘Nettle Rash’ of 28th May last year).

After some time the footpath broadened out into a wide gravelled track for vehicles.  The next gate was one for motor transport, beyond which I could see the A377.  I got a bit excited at this because I thought it may be taking me to an underpass  that I have seen from the other side of what is now quite a dangerous road to walk along.  Sadly, that was not the case.  I turned round and retraced my steps, turning left at a footpath just before the aforementioned gate.  This, I thought, would lead to Shave Wood.  Tempted by another footpath to the right I was soon again crunching arboreal debris underfoot, dodging living branches, and tripping on bracken stems.  I had by now realised that the fir wood I had walked through earlier was enclosed by the usual wire fence.  Keeping to the fence I came across another pedestrian gate to my right. Wire fence brought down by tree I walked through this and continued on the other side of the fence which had, at one point, been brought down by a fallen tree.  Later, I opted to go back through the next gate into what I expected to be the forested area that has the road to London Minstead running through it. Hazel nuts The carpet of nuts beneath my feet confirmed that I was in the vicinity of Hazel Hill and I emerged by the track to Suters Cottage.

By this time I had had enough of clambering, ducking, and tripping so I went home through London Minstead, where lives a classic two parent two child family. Equine family Equine, that is.

Near the junction of Bull and Seamans Lanes I was fascinated by two young turkeys in a small coop on the lawn of a small front garden. Turkeys I wondered whether the occupants of the house had been shopping early for Christmas.  As I stood contemplating this a friendly little terrier popped out of the front doorway, followed by his equally amiable owner.  I told the man of my speculation, and he confirmed that my surmise was accurate.  One was being fattened up for Christmas and one for Easter.  304491_515776045104304_1031880281_nApparently they are very fragile creatures.  Even a plane going overhead can cause them to drop down dead; and they have to be kept away from chickens which harbour a disease fatal to them.

548210_533409100007665_434140646_nNaturally, I thought of my niece Alex’s pet Terry, and in telling the man of him, said Alex was lucky to have bred him successfully.  Actually, it is Terry, hatched early last year, now fully grown, having come through the last winter festive season unscathed, who is fortunate.  Mind you, he has been to some extent feather-bedded.

This afternoon we drove out to Ferndene Farm Shop in Bashley for various supplies.

The rhubarb for our evening crumble came, washed and trimmed like everything else, from Ferndene, as did the orange whose zest with ginger paste from a halal shop in Morden, flavoured this wonderful sweet, served, naturally, with custard.  Before that we enjoyed Morrison’s wild rice with Jackie’s, certainly not tame, chilli con carne.  I finished the Campo Dorado.

A Sad Duty

On another cold day I put off my walk until after lunch.  A day or two ago we had been talking on the subject of soups.  Jackie had mentioned that her favourite was watercress.  She made one today and it was very tasty.

A31 from Malwood Farm track 2.13As I left the flat, the first flurry of snow greeted me.  It didn’t amount to much.  I walked under the A31 again, this time by the Malwood Farm underpass.Malwood Farm underpass 2.13My intention was to then walk across the forest to the Stoney Cross underpass.  I knew there was no footpath in the direction in which I wanted to go.  Today I found out why.  Eventually it was clear I was wire fenced in on all sides except the narrow space by a cattle grid that I had slithered through.  So, back I tracked, coming out on to the other side of the A31.  I walked along there for a while, until a crash barrier petered out, and I decided that to fight my way through the undergrowth was preferable to withstanding the drag of passing lorries. Rhododendrons 2.13 It turned out not to be.  Clambering over fallen trees and battling through holly and rhododendron bushes, I persevered until a branch poked me in the eye.  I then battled back to the roadside, to walk the comparatively short distance to the Rufus Stone road, and from there across the heath to yesterday’s cycle track, under the second underpass, and back home via Furzey Gardens.

I have mentioned before that people in the forest are expected to inform various authorites of sightings of sick or injured animals.  Jackie read recently that an average of two ponies are killed on the roads in this large national park each week; usually by hit and run drivers at night.  It is actually an offence not to report collisions with the livestock. Dead deer 2.13 On that final stretch of the A31 roadside lay a dead deer with a car number plate not far off.  I normally carry the card with the emergency numbers on it, but I didn’t have it today.  I rang Jackie and asked her to text me the phone number I required.  She did so.  It is the Forestry Commision who wish to be informed about dead deer.  They were grateful for the call I made.  I was informed that this was a ‘hot spot’ for deer emerging at that point.  Even in death, this beautiful creature looked so elegant that I trust my readers will understand my publishing the photograph.

I followed muddy pony tracks over the heath.  The rest of the walk was uneventful, possibly because I was thinking of the poor doe.

Jackie produced a leftovers fusion meal for dinner tonight; lamb jalfrezi, chicken in chilli and black bean sauce; with the addition of fresh samosa, spring rolls, and savoury rice.  Delicious.

We watched a repeated episode of ‘New Tricks’.