A Significant Birthday

Today was far wetter and more windy that yesterday.

Jackie drove us to Setley Ridge Garden Centre to find a birthday present for Elizabeth. The paths were so pock marked and filled with water that it seemed sensible for my wife to recce the joint before I left the car.

I waited for a reasonable length of time watching rain streaming down the windows, until I though she had been in there long enough to think that we would be able to find something suitable.

I didn’t linger over the outside displays

before entering the internal arrangements of ornaments old and new laid out with the various plants for sale.

We settled on a nicely rusted cast iron garden snail, and also bought a card which we carried off to Elizabeth’s.

Ella had also been informed that this was her grandmother’s special day, because she had brought her mother, Danni, over for lunch.

At one point, Ella, sleeping on the sofa, briefly woke with a start and let out a distressed cry. Danni, simultaneously, on the other side of the room, had banged her head on the sharp corner of a shelf. She herself made no sound but rubbed her head in pain. Had there been some symbiotic communication?

While we were there Elizabeth’s friend Franz phoned her to wish her Happy Birthday from Manchester. She was, of course, able to see him on her mobile device.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s choice cottage pie, crisp carrots and cauliflower, and tender spring greens.

Well Camouflaged


More snow fell overnight and earlier this morning, so off we went for a forest drive.

Before this we had to listen to the chattering of the residents of the garden who were beginning to feel the cold.

We headed for Crow, where we lunched at the Farm Café. Jackie parked beside Leybrooke Bridge on Dragon Lane, and I took a few photographs of lanes

and stream.

Scattering of snow on the moors, like these around Burley blended with pools, gorse, grass, bracken, and trees to produce sweeping throws of natural wool yarn.

The hardy ponies clung to the shelter of wooded areas where they fed on holly and gorse. Normally the greys stand out well against the greenery around them. Today, however, they were very well camouflaged.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s sublime sausage casserole, mashed potatoes and swede, crisp carrots and piquant cauliflower swede. I drank Cru de la Vallée du Rhone Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2015.

The Rat Catcher


Barn owl sculpture

This is the owl our offspring gave Jackie for her birthday.

Pedestal etc

Clearly this splendid sculpture needed a plinth on which to perch. Fortunately I had noticed one in the very dealership from which we had purchased yesterday’s troughs. So back we went to Molly’s Den and bought it.

Chairs etc

Much more can be found in this emporium: chairs, table and settings;


recordings old and new;


figurines to every taste;


bears, of course;

Wooden boxes

boxes of possibly dubious provenance;


headscarfs on mannequins;

Fairground signs 1Fairground signs 2

fairly optimistically priced peeling and faded fairground signs;

Copper jug

and bright copper artefacts, to select a few.

ponies outside The Rising Sun

On our return home, a cluster of ponies gathered outside The Rising Sun at Wootton. Were they perhaps waiting for lunch to be served?

Barn Owl sculpture on plinth

Rats continue to enter our garden from the empty and unkempt North Breeze next door. Perhaps that is the reason that Jackie wasted no time in allocating a place for the barn owl’s plinth beside the patio. I expect that benign looking predator appears rather different to a rodent.

Later, Jackie continued weeding and planting, while I fed this year’s compost pile and emptied the last of the matured one onto the Palm Bed.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s bountiful beef casserole served with abundant boiled potatoes. She drank Peroni while I finished the madiran.


Happy Hunting


Those who have read posts from April 2014 onwards will know that we moved into a house that had suffered from much bodged D.I.Y. We are only putting this right at a very slow pace.

Here is our badly painted crooked mantelpiece made from a bit of wood trimmed with beading. Note the gaps behind the tiles stuck onto the walls, and that between the shelf and the wall.

Fireplace surround

We can’t stand it any more, so we travelled to Ace Reclamation in West Parley to investigate surrounds created from reclaimed timber. We are now to submit a measured drawing to have one made for us.

Ace Reclamation entrance

Our morning was spent in heavy rain. Here is the entrance to the architectural salvage outlet. The staff member waving in the distance is acknowledging the postwoman who has just delivered the mail to

Ace Reclaim letter box through wet windscreen

an old postbox which serves as Ace Reclamation’s letterbox. This is what that looked like through our car windscreen.

Readers can already imagine that I wasn’t about to make a complete inventory in the rain, however I did what I could. This yard is a wonderful repository of artefacts and materials. There are garden ornaments and furniture galore, some of which, on past visits, has found its way to Downton. Figures in stone and bronze, a giant cockerel, carriage lamps, urns, tiles, timber, rust, telephone boxes, a suit of armour, a mangle, a garden roller, gargoyles, can all be found therein. You could enjoy happy hunting in reality, or, if you’d prefer to stay dry, virtually, through searching through these photographs.

Flooded woods 1

The wooded areas on either side of the long, unmade, road, the potholes in which give a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘off the beaten track’, are waterlogged.

Ripples in ditch

The ditches are filling up fast,

Waterlogged trees 2

and flooding a paddock,

in which stood three damp horses, two of which were a sandy colour I have not seen before.


Mind you, the gorse glowed a grateful golden yellow.

On our way home we visited Friar’s Cliff Café for brunch. There was just one other customer couple who had braved the blustery seafront to reach the comfort always available there.

Sea through café window 1

This was the sea through the rain-splashed window.

Anyone who has seen a photograph of a Friar’s Cliff Café breakfast will not be surprised to learn that a selection of small Asian snacks, such as samosas and spring rolls, more than satisfied us for our evening meal with which jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Cahors.

The Garden Of Delights


Garden of Delights, Les Petites Pannes 2.13

Yesterday afternoon I began reading ‘La femme au petit renard’ by Violette Leduc.

After this I watched ‘Changeling’, an excellent film based on a true story.  Brilliantly directed by Clint Eastwood, with Angelina Jolie a superb mother struggling against a corrupt police force, and John Malkovitch playing the priest who supports her, it is the story of a substituted boy.  Much more than this, it an exposure of police methods; appalling psychiatric treatment; and a serial killer brought to trial and executed.

But this was not my planned viewing.  I had hoped to watch ‘The Changeling’, a ghost story starring George C. Scott.  Unfortunately I could not play it on my laptop, so I too, had to make a substitution.  My DVD is one that was transferred from a Video recording when I was living in W2.  Matthew, who had never forgotten watching it on television with me when he was a small boy, had, a few years ago, got a friend to scour the Internet for a secondhand copy to give me for my birthday.  We have, of course watched it since, but I will have to wait for another viewing until I can use my home equipment.

rue St Jacques steps 2.13Steady drizzle descended this morning as I walked down then up rue St Jacques as far as the D933 and back.  Looking up towards No. 6, haphazard steps on the right hand side offer some aid to pedestrians.  Just after I turned back from the junction an unamiable Alsation exposed enormous fangs as it sharply warned me off.  Perhaps it saw me as its dinner.  Its awesome leaps, all four paws high in the air; its back level with the top of the protective wire fence, made me very grateful that it appeared to have no knowledge of the Fosbury flop.

By a bend in the road at Les Petite Planes is a garden that would delight my aforementioned son Matthew.  It is Mat who gains great amusement from spotting garden embellishments of various creatures modelled in stone, aggregate, or plastic.  Flo, when really quite little, incidentally demonstrated her inheritance of the family humour by calling Mat and his wife ‘Tat and Mess’.

Tree of shite 8.12I had thought such outdoor ornaments were a purely English obsession.  But then, the occupants of the said house may not be French.  English garden centres are well stocked with such creations.  As I learned from the owners of an ornamental cherry tree in Hillcross Avenue, Morden, you can even buy features to be pinned to the trunks providing you with your own benign Ent, one of Tolkien’s tree-people.

The municipal dump near The Firs in West End has a collonade of discarded gnomes and suchlike lining its entrance.  This affords ample entertainment whilst waiting in the queue to unload your own rubbish.  Although the staff there have a good line in selling off unwanted but serviceable items, they will not part with any from their splendid gallery.

The more upmarket architectural salvage outlets or antique shops stock stone statuary from a bygone age.  There is one at the corner of Church Street and Lisson Grove in Marylebone.

During the eighteenth century there was a fashion for follies.  Seeking a look of antiquity, owners of grand houses would employ landscapers to build what looked like ancient ruins.  Today’s viewer may well wonder what was in place originally, but there was nothing more.  A number of these constructions are to be found at Belvoir in Leicestershire.  The most recent folly I know of was not built to look like a ruin.  It is a perfectly proportioned and complete Palladian rotunda erected with his own hands by Edmund Staunton in the grounds of his Nottinghamshire Manor House not far from Belvoir.  Sometime in the 1990s Jessica and I, as friends of Edmund and his wife Liz, attended the grand opening of which the couple was justifiably proud.

Most more humble London homes wishing to furnish their small plots make do with such figures as I saw in Les Petites Planes.  The gnomes in particular are often painted in bright pigments offering a resplendence to otherwise less than colourful surroundings.  Mitcham has a few.

Graham was also sampling Le Code Bar lunch today.  His judgement was the same as mine.  Yesterday’s soup was followed by a large bacon omelette.  The sweet was a divine, decorated, S-shaped chocolate mousse confection with a sauce straight out of a modern art gallery.  There was no room for the meat on my platter of chips, so the superbly tender pork chops in their exquisitely tasty sauce occupied a separate bowl.  Fred seemed slightly the worse for wear after the staff night out last night.