Patio Progress

When I wandered around the garden early this chilly morning I watched the overnight frost dripping from the touch of the sun making its slow climb into the branches above and listened to the rhythmic patter as it beat a tattoo on the leaves below.

Sugar-frost remained in the unshaded beds and bejewelled foliage reached by the rising sun.

Camellias and irises reticulata are beginning to bloom.

Although she does not yet have balanced coordination to stand without support Ellie has the strength to do so with it, as she attempts to turn her multiple choice toy into a teething ring while running her tongue over her first burgeoning gnasher. Her mother stands poised in case of slippage.

Beginning early this morning,

and with the aid of his saw horse,

Martin spent much of the day fixing sleepers around the perimeter of the new patio paving. Each piece is measured meticulously and levelled with the aid of a spirit level.

After lunch I completed the recovery, made possible by the help of SueW, of the pictures to the following posts:

This evening we all dined on toothsome roast beef; crisp Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes; firm Brussels sprouts; crunchy carrots; tender runner beans, and tasty gravy, with which Jackie drank more of the GrĂ¼ner Veltliner, I drank more of the Syrah, and Flo and Dillon drank fruit juice cordial. Ellie chewed at and sucked on a piece of carrot and screwed up her face in lachrymal complaint when this was removed.

Sans Aniseed

Jackie has responded well to penicillin and is now recovering.

We experienced our second frost today.

The early sun sent the icy drops of the wisteria leaves melting;

it took a while longer to illuminate the lower plants

and grasses,

or paths like the Brick

or the Heligan;

and later to redden the lingering leaves of the copper beech.

This post from my first days of blogging:

tells the story of the meal I spent this afternoon cooking. As I mention, it requires powdered aniseed. This is not in our larder, so once again Susan’s chicken has no aniseed and I had to be creative with other ingredients. The linked post featured in the above one is still lacking pictures, but the text may interest newer readers.

Flo boiled basmati rice to accompany the chicken with which I drank more of the Malbec, then settled down to watch the Football World Cup Quarter Final match between England and France

First Frost Of The Year

After the overnight frost we scraped ice of the the car windows soon after 11 a.m. and ventured out into the cold forest’s sunlit chill.

A five barred gate cast its shadows among golden brown autumn leaves, some of which brushed my head on their descent to the verge of

South Sway Road.

Wootton moorland’s milk-white mantle was streaked with silver

coating leaves, ferns, and grasses.

A pointillist’s brush had stippled the still lingering leaves.

Although traces of ice still continued to cloud the surfaces of neighbouring potholes the rippling stream at Wootton Bridge freely flowed.

This evening we enjoyed second helpings of yesterday’s Red Chilli takeaway.


Early this morning Jackie wandered around the garden photographing

the overnight frost

and misty garden views.

Later we shopped at both Tesco and Lidl, by which time the mist and intermittent periods of sunshine had both lessened. We continued into the forest in search of more atmospheric scenes.

Grey ponies dotted the hazy moorland landscapes flanking Burley Road, where

skeletal trees were silhouetted against the rapidly changing cloudscapes.

The ancient steep viridescent verges alongside the hollowed out Charles’s Lane gathered bright green moss and ivy. Tall trees slipped into the

periodically descending mist, and the sun was once more a graven orb.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy paprika pork and savoury rice with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Fleurie.

School Was Out

Despite our recent sunshine The Head Gardener remained convinced that Jack Frost had not yet kept his icy fingers out of reach of the garden.

Early this morning she took her camera outside to prove her point.

Later, Callum of Metro Rod brought his specialist camera to investigate a blockage in the drainage to our septic tank. His diagnosis was that the tank needed emptying. There was no additional obstruction. We are normally on an 18 months rolling cycle for clearance, yet it is only nine months since it was last emptied. I telephoned CSG, increased the frequency of the pump out, and booked one for next week.

The temperature was warmer this afternoon when we drove into the forest.

Blackie, photographed by Jackie,

and Splash, by me, two Highland bulls to whom I have been introduced, with their herd, occupied the green at Bramshaw. After a good scratch the red bovine let me know what he thought of me.

Among the others on which I focussed,

one sported a mud pack by rubbing the grass of well-placed mound.

Jackie also captured me at work, refusing to accept that it was a portrait of the muddy cow I was making, and not the other creature’s bum.

Moving on to Nomansland, an assortment of ponies were employed on keeping down the grass in the cricket outfield.

Today, most primary schoolchildren in England, have returned to school after the latest Covid-19 restrictions.

Those in the village of Hale share their playing fields with ponies on the green. The school bus driver had to shift the pony from the path in order to pick up some pupils. Meanwhile families gathered, safely distanced, to collect their charges. School was out.

I believe this was a herd of English White cattle on a hillside outside the village.

Primroses now line many of our verges, like those beside the field above, beyond which

stretch extensive landscapes.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy pasta arrabbiata, and tender green beans, with which she finished the Sauvignon Blanc and I drank Primitivo Solento 2019

Twilight Haze

On a dull and frosty morning Jackie photographed some aspects of the garden.

A perky dragon was garlanded in frosted ivy; the ‘Autumn’ sculpture vied with winter;

euphorbia, cordyline Australis, and rose leaves bore fringes of frost and lingering water drops;

some potted pansies were rather limp, while iris reticulata and tulips broke the soil in defiance.

By the time we drove over to Pilley to present Elizabeth (in our bubble) with a tub of Jackie’s substantial chicken and vegetable stoup, the skies had brightened.

In the woodland alongside Undershore a soft toy had successfully scaled the wall that is the undercarriage of a fallen tree.

The decorated postbox in Pilley Street now bears the year date 2021;

the icy old quarry lake bears branches and reflections.

At Walhampton I photographed a pheasant on the verge and Jackie focussed on a silhouetted wood pigeon;

on Monument Lane while I caught the lowering sun behind trees Jackie picked out its tipping the monument railings.

Finally the Assistant Photographer caught me

focussed on the dying sunset and twilight haze shrouding the Isle of Wight and The Needles at Milford on Sea.

This evening we dined on succulent fillet steaks; crisp oven chips; moist mushrooms; nicely charred onions; cherry vine tomatoes; and a colourful melange of peas and sweetcorn, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Patrick Chodot Fleurie 2019.

Christmas Covid-Cancelled, Collecting Easter Eggs

Today we took an early lunch and drove to Tesco for our big shop. As usual I sat in the car, Jackie did the business, and I intended to read my book. After one page my sister, Jacqueline, phoned me and that was the end of the reading.

In fact Tesco wasn’t too difficult, so the Caterer in Chief wouldn’t let me unload the shopping into the car for Covid safety’s sake.

We took a diversion round Holmsley Passage and its misty, frosty, landscape on our way home.

As I wandered, fingers and toes tingling, I discerned just one group of grazing ponies.

Others, on Holmsley Road

and Wootton Common were nearer at hand. One, as soon as I paid it any attention, huddled against its companion seeking security.

A weak sun, putting in an appearance over Hordle Lane, silhouetted a number of oaks.

Undeterred by the fact that we are still consuming provisions bought in for Covid-cancelled Christmas, Jackie had made her first Easter egg purchases.

This evening we dined on more of Jackie’s perfect spicy pork paprika; boiled potatoes; firm carrots and cauliflower; and tender runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Malbec.

The Birthday Cake Candle

Jackie took an early morning walk around the garden with her camera.

First she produced general frosted garden scenes;

then focussed on various similarly coated leaves;

not forgetting Camellia blooms;

or Nugget in his thermal vest. “Where’s Nugget?” (62)

Late this afternoon we drove to Elizabeth’s house at Pilley where we joined her, Danni, Andy and Ella for the infant’s first birthday celebration. Elizabeth produced an excellent spaghetti Bolognese with fresh salad and garlic bread. This was followed by a most moist carrot birthday cake. Jacki drank Hoegaarden; the rest of us various red wines. Ella abstained.

For the second time today Jackie took all the photographs.

Ella continues to be a great pointer. In the second of these pictures she is clearly aiming for the camera.

She is gaining confidence in furniture walking even though the process gets a bit tight at times;

sometimes she forgets she is meant to hold on.

The one-year old enjoyed opening her cards

and presents;

the wrapping paper bearing various animals was equally attractive to her.

Her birthday cake candle especially delighted both her and her mother,


In truth she was past caring when it was time to eat the cake.

In The Rough

This morning we received an e-mail from our good blogging friend Lavinia Ross attaching a photograph of the cedar tree (Calocedrus decurrens) she has planted in remembrance of my son Michael. We are very touched by this.

Jackie nipped out to photograph the evidence of last night’s sub-zero temperature.

We have light frost on various leaves;

and thin ice on the Frond pond – well, cistern actually.

Plants like primulas

and wallflower Sugar Rush Purple Bicolour seem unscathed.

After lunch Jackie turned her lens on the front garden foragers. in the process discovering

a dunnock and

a second robin happily coexisting with Ron. Robins are notoriously territorial, the males fighting to the death to repel invaders. Two companionable examples must therefore be one male and one female. When Ron first came on the scene we did speculate that the bird could in fact be a Ronette. We now have a real identification problem.

Is this Ron or Ronette waiting for the sparrows to finish feeding;

and which is sharing pickings with the pigeon?

Later this afternoon we took a drive into the forest.

The sun was quite low over the Burley Golf Course where one couple were nicely silhouetted;

another apparently caught in the rough;

and ponies,

one of which lethargically turned to observe me, dozing or grazing.

On the opposite side of Burley Road trees, like Narcissus, admired themselves on the surface of a deepening pool.

Before we left home I had remembered that Elizabeth had given me a long walker’s stick for my birthday last year. This is intended to aid balance. I therefore decided to keep it in the car. I was tempted to leave the road at Bisterne Close and walk into the woods. As I set off Jackie reminded me of the stick. Well, at least I had got it into the car without prompting.

It was a great help in traversing the undulating forest floor with its soggy, shoe sucking, areas, yet lacking yesterday’s booby traps.

Moss-covered raised roots were easier to negotiate than yesterday’s bare snaking ones.

Winter’s long shadows stretched over the terrain

much of which was reasonably dry underfoot.

There were, of course, more reflective pools.

One long-limbed mighty oak needed only a wildcat steed to present a passing semblance of the Hindu goddess Durga.

Somehow she has retained her mighty arms whilst another lost one of hers some time ago.

Back in the car and further down the road, even at 3.30 p.m. ice shone on the waterlogged verge.

This evening we dined at The Smugglers Inn at Milford on Sea where Jackie enjoyed spinach and ricotta cannelloni followed by sticky toffee pudding and ice cream. I would have enjoyed my otherwise good sirloin steak, chips, onion rings, and fresh salad more had my steak knife been thrown away. My great and butter pudding and custard dessert was excellent. The service was friendly, speedy, and efficient. Mrs Knight drank Hop House Lager while I drank Doom Bar.

The Equestrian Quartet

On another cold and bright morning we drove into the forest by way of Brockenhurst.

From the Hinchelsea car park I photographed a somewhat misty moorland landscape.

The winterbourne pool just outside the town had iced over,

as had some of the terrain

leading to further distant scenes.

Rhinefield Road,

where bracken provides burnished autumn colour,

crosses Ober Water with its clear reflections. Jackie parked nearby to enable me to wander around the

frosted banks. She moved on the the

Puttles Bridge

car park where she noticed a sign indicating the Ober Water Trail. Naturally I walked along this. It is marked by very helpful posts bearing colour coded strips – red for one and a half miles and yellow for one mile. I took the yellow option, giving me a two mile total. The track was mostly flat with occasional variety provided by

tree roots

and mud.

Along the way I enjoyed sunlit views of red-brown bracken and autumn leaves, some decorating sawn off stumps; fallen lumber logs; backlit foliage; and tree shadows stretching across the forest floor.

The trail clearly runs alongside the eponymous water, but one needed to go off piste to see it. I am not yet ready for that, since this was in itself my longest post-operative trek.

The yellow marker disappears from the post at a bridge crossing the now visible stream.

On reaching the bridge I noticed an equestrian quartet approaching.

Realising they would be crossing the river by this route, I crossed first and stood, poised, to one side,

ready to tracked their clattering over the planks and

gentle thudding off into the forest.

Leaning on the bridge, I took one last look at the water before retracing my steps.

The sight of Jackie’s Modus in the car park had a rather similar impact as that of Big Ben coming up to the end of a London marathon. Either is welcome, but you know you are going to be hard put to make it.

Those who have been concerned about Nugget’s apparent absence will be pleased to know that, although not photographed, he was about this morning. From the comfort of my passenger seat I did, however, spot

one of his relatives. Can you spot him?

This evening we dined on a second helping of the Chinese Takeaway with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Minervois.