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,

Danni.

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.

 

 

Jackie Frost

Although it wasn’t to last long, we awoke to our first proper frost of the season

Jackie photographed the panoramic views from the dressing room and from the garden bedroom upstairs.

She then toured the garden and brought back this gallery of images. As usual titles are given on accessing the gallery with a click on any of the pictures. The sun soon brought the temperature up and each one of the wilted plants on display had returned to its full glory by midday.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s splendidly matured succulent sausage casserole; creamy swede and potato mash; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; tender curly kale; and red cabbage imbued with the piquancy of vinegar and soy sauce.

Talking Heads

I may have mentioned that my Canon 70-300mm lens became stuck just before Christmas, and I took it into Wessex Photographic in Ringwood for a quotation. This has come back. The cost is £70 more than a second-hand one the store had in stock. That being a no-brainer, Jackie drove me to replace my older second-hand model with a newer one.

Afterwards we brunched in Café Aroma, and, through their crystal clear plate glass window, I tried out this newly acquired piece of equipment, by photographing

passers-by.

One gentleman vaped outside the smokers’ shelter,

through the transparent sheet of which I photographed some talking heads.

Suitably sated, we continued into the forest where a light frost still lay in patches. Perhaps because we are so near the coast we haven’t yet experienced this.

At North Gorley a saturated area of turf wore white patches beside a pool covered in semi-melted ice. Reflections rested undisturbed on the otherwise limpid surface.

As the leisurely grazing sheep discovered on Cadnam Lane, frost lingered beside the hedges. Perhaps the equine droppings among the ovine diners had been left by

the string of stubby ponies following their relatively gigantic grey leader down the road. One forlorn little fellow just couldn’t keep up,

until its companions paused for refreshments.

A motley array of cuddly creatures clambered over a farm gate in an endeavour to escape the peacocks within.

On our way home we noticed that The Bell at Bank has a rather cheeky event coming up on 25th January

Jackie said she felt like another Christmas dinner today, so she produced roast chicken; Yorkshire pudding; roast potatoes and parsnips; moist bread sauce; firm sage and onion stuffing; and crunchy carrots and cauliflower. Becky drank Diet Coke, and I drank Famille Perrin Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2016. Ian wasn’t feeling well. Maybe he will eat later.

Sussing Possible Rentals

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For much of the day, Jackie drove me and Flo around the forest, focussing on the location of a few flats she has found that might be suitable for her to rent. First on the itinerary was one over the antiques centre where Elizabeth has a cabinet.

From there we drove on to Ashurst to survey the forested area surrounding the secluded building. The low sun sent sharp shadows across the sparkling frosted terrain; and brightened reflections in the developing pools. Lichen covered broken branches lay all around.

A pony ripped its way through the bracken in which it foraged.

Once in the north of the forest, we brunched at Hockey’s Farm Shop at South Gorley. There, Flo photographed the alpacas, the donkeys, and the chickens. She was making a video with some still photographs of the New Forest.

A diminutive pony fed from a box on the side of a pen.

Sow with piglets

A contented sow shielded her three day old piglets from prying eyes. A notice warned that she might become grumpy if they were poked.

Donkeys

Donkeys always seem more in evidence to the north of the A31.

Godshill was our next port of call. We are unable to find the selected property, but we did tramp along muddy paths. The car’s access to the most likely location was barred by three farm horses, one of which was particularly large. As we made our way past them, the animals picked up speed and appeared to be racing us down the soggy slope on which mud mingled with equine droppings.

Farm horses waiting for tea

We thought it best to stand aside from these heavy-hoofed beasts. They swung round the bend at the bottom of the hill, coming to a halt at the farm gate. We were informed by the woman apparently in charge of their reception committee that they were assembling for their tea.

We failed to meet Becky and Ian here. After waiting in Godshill Cricket car park watching the moon rise and the sun set, we returned home to find the others there. Our problem was the lack of mobile phone signals depriving us of the ability to communicate on the move, on which we have all become so dependent.

This evening we all grazed on cold meats, cheeses, and salads Jackie laid out on the kitchen table.

 

 

Wishing All My Readers Happiness In Their Own Festive Season

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Much of today was spent writing Christmas cards.

It therefore seemed appropriate to present this selection from my archives,

from which readers can choose their own with my best wishes. In order of appearance, the three Christmas cards were designed by me aged 16, 17, and 18. They represent the three kings, the shepherds, and Mary and Jesus from the Christian Nativity story.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s excellent chilli con carne, savoury rice, and vegetable samosas, with which I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon.