Garden Visitors


Regular readers will know that Elizabeth’s friends, Pauline and Jo were unable to reach us on a recent planned visit, because of a traffic problem on the M27. This morning they made up for that.

My sister took the mother and daughter on a tour of the garden.

We then enjoyed a convivial conversation, coffee and pastries on the patio. Elizabeth displayed, on her mobile phone, a photograph of her grandson and therefore my great nephew Jasper, on his first day at school.

Her friends then moved on to the Garden Albums I had created as a before and after record of our first two years here.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb beef, onion, and mushroom pie; sublime gravy; sautéed potatoes; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; and tender cabbage. The Culinary Queen drank her customary Hoegaarden, while Elizabeth and I drank Patrick Chodot Brouilly 2016

Carefully Cutting To Shape


Compared with that experienced in other parts of the world, including the rest of the UK, the Christmas cake icing barely coating our garden when we awoke this morning could hardly be called snow. It was a little thicker later on,

and by late afternoon could even display avian footprints.

The Waterboy’s fountain was so frozen that its pump had to be turned off.

Despite a heavy cold, Connor turned up early this morning and completed the flooring. Some of the furniture had been placed in the far left corner to enable him to cover all the other areas. When he was ready to fill that space he rang for help to move the items off the previously prepared screed. Within ten minutes Andy arrived to help. A sheet of plywood was utilised to protect the new flooring. Andy, working at his usual rate of knots, didn’t even take time to remove the hooded jacket that had protected him from the sweeping snowflakes.

Once the final screed base had dried, Connor, carefully, cutting to shape where necessary, completed the job to an exemplary standard.

The fact that we ate at The Royal Oak for the third night running had more to do with the treacherous weather conditions than anything else. This was no hardship. I enjoyed my chicken ham hock, and cider pie in short crust pastry with red wine sauce, broccoli, manges touts,  peas, and mashed potato accompanied by Razor Back beer; Jackie was equally happy with her barbecue flavoured macaroni cheese and garlic bread. She drank Amstell.

Morning Light


On Sunday mornings when Aaron is due to come, I nip down to the five-barred gate at the end of the back drive to open it so he can drive his vehicle in.

This morning there was no nipping, because I was bewitched by the light.

Our treasured help performed a variety of tasks today. He painted metal chairs, mended a wooden one that had been smashed by the autumn winds, and weeded more paths.

This afternoon we are visiting The First Gallery, visiting my mother, and going out for a meal  with Elizabeth in the evening. It may be that we take Mum with us for the meal. The reason for this is that her domiciliary care has, like everyone else’s, been privatised. This means that it is undertaken by contracted firms whose main object is to make money. The result is rushed and unreliable schedules subject to inconvenient alterations, with or without a warning telephone call.

Mum needs help to get up and shower and to settle herself down for bed. Elizabeth does most other things for her. Today she was informed that the morning visit would be late and the evening early. This could mean starting well after 10 a.m. and finishing well before 6 p.m. In the circumstances Mum cancelled the evening call, so we will come into play. I will report on this tomorrow.

Those who are unaware of the welfare systems here may not know that we have no choice but to have National Insurance contributions deducted from our earnings, and that Local Authorities can keep none of the promises about receiving care free of charge ‘at the point of service’ ‘from the cradle to the grave’. Jackie’s Social Work colleagues from abroad had to have her explain to them why it was that elderly people wondered why they had to pay for these inadequate services. There is much current debate about injecting more money. That will make not the slightest difference because, like so many of our services, the destruction, in the name of Mammon, has already happened.

From Mist To Sunshine And Back


The mist that shrouded the garden never left Downton today.

Motoring further away from the coast into the forest in the mid-afternoon, Jackie and I left the fog behind us and were treated to bright sunshine sending splayed shafts through the trees alongside

Holmsley Passage

Holmsley Passage.

The few leaves that still clung to the slender branches became dancing will-o-the-wisps flirting with autumn’s bronzed ferns;

Forest 5

and individual trunks were spotlit pillars.


Haze surrounded a solitary pony on the roadside approaching Burley, where

pools of recent precipitation reflected housing, trees, and sky.

The herd of red deer that had not been in evidence on our last visit to that village had today, as is their wont, invaded the field in front of the Manor House, where they rendered lawn mowers redundant.

By the time we returned home via Hordle Lane the mist had (in)visibly thickened.

This evening we dined with Becky and Matthew on Jackie’s tasty cottage pie, tender beef in red wine, and piquant cauliflower cheese. I drank Languedoc rouge 2015.

Spectral Ponies


This morning we brunched in a very crowded Otter Nurseries restaurant before driving to Emery Down, Bolderwood, and back home.

Thatched house

As with many New Forest villages, the approach to Emery Down from Swan Green is quintessentially English.

Thatched house

We have a row of tiny thatched cottages in which I could not stand upright, and a larger thatched house, opposite the green

Emery Down approach

flanking the uphill stretch of an undulating road, one of the warning signs of which bears the image of a pony. Level with the gate in this picture is a cattle grid. Both gate and grid are designed to keep those ponies on the far side.

Thatched house garden

The garden of the house benefits from our Indian summer;

no self-respecting one in this area, except, that is, for ours, is without its bank of nerines,

Roses and nerines

not all accompanied by pink shrub roses.

Turning left in Emery Down the forest road goes through Bolderwood. On its verges Jackie parked with her puzzle book whilst I wandered among the trees,

the leaves of which were beginning to turn rich gold and deep red.


This is also the season for mushrooms to force their way through the forest floor.

Throughout the woods can be seen shattered trunks and hollowed sawn logs from fallen trees.

At Bolderwood silent spectral ponies emerged from the shadows to graze their way across to the greener grass on the other side.

Sunlight played on the road on our return.

This evening we dined on spicy pizza and salad, followed by profiterols. I drank Basson shiraz 2014.


No Sale

Deer in forest – Version 2

Here is yesterday’s camouflaged deer, in the centre of the complete shot. As always. clicking on my images enlarges them. If once is not enough, a second gives a supersize.

Garden 1Garden 2Garden 3

Splendid sunlight lit upon the garden today as, leaving Aaron to his work, we drove to the final coffee morning of the exhibition.

Bench - Ace ReclaimGate reset

Aaron completed the painting of the Ace Reclaim bench and reset the front side gate. The brick will hold it firm until the concrete, which he has tastefully covered with gravel, has set.

Unfortunately, the exhibition was less than successful. Attendance was meagre and no pictures, neither mine nor anyone else’s, were sold, although a number of my cards found buyers. We did however enjoy a pleasant couple of hours with our friends and a few of theirs.

This evening we dined on beefburgers, chips, cauliflower cheese, leeks, and tomatoes. I drank more of the madiran.

Mulching And Composting

Front garden 1

The early sun set the front garden glowing gold, as always, this morning. The autumn flowering cherry has been in bloom since last October. The telegraph pole, from which a cluster of cables fans out along Christchurch Road and all points of the compass, receives regular visits from BT engineers.

Front garden 2

What this area looked like a year ago can be seen in ‘Before And After: Through To The Front’.

Much maintenance was carried out today,

Rose garden mulching

my major contribution being mulching the three bags of Landscape Bark bought yesterday into the rose garden;

Jackie mulching palm bed 1

and Jackie’s, weeding and composting The Palm Bed.


This wide-eyed owl was decapitated by storm Katie. Surgeon Jackie performed the necessary operation.

We are still at least three bags of bark short for the rose garden, so this afternoon we drove back to

Mole yard

Mole Country Stores and bought them;

Ponies and Sway Tower 2

after which we took a roundabout route back through the farm lanes where we spotted a group of ponies, three of which masqueraded as sheep. Sway Tower can be seen in the background. Otherwise known as Peterson’s Folly, this landmark has featured in a number of these posts.

Finally, we topped up with compost in the form of ten 35 litre bags from Lidl.

We left those in the car and settled down for a beer (well, one each, actually) in the rose garden. It is quite a sun trap so we were certainly warm enough.

This evening we dined on tender fillet steak lost under lashings of fried onions. accompanied by mixed vegetables au gratin (left overs in cheese sauce), crisp carrots, Brussels sprouts, and new potatoes. Jackie drank sparkling water and I finished the Memoro.

The Plantation House And Garden


A visitor just inside the front door this morning somewhat deterred Jackie from leaving the house by that route. Well, it was suspended at just about head height.

Ficus roots

Yesterday the Head Gardener pronounced sentence of death on a ficus which was far too close to the patio, and too big for the plot it occupied. She made a valiant start on carrying out the punishment which I continued today. Working in steady drizzle, I just managed to complete the task before heavy rain set in for the day. The two pieces of trellis in the background of the photograph were taken from the recently freed cast iron gate. A scented jasmine has already been planted to make its way up them.

In the days following Sam’s arrival into Port St Charles, Barbados in May 2004, I continued to photograph the island and scanned a dozen more slides today.

Sam meeting Milnes family

Sam with Peter, Sol, and Jay Milnes

The two boys were very keen to meet the new celebrity. They were Jay and Sol, the sons of Peter Milnes, who lived in a former plantation house. An introduction was arranged and we made our way to their home, where their delight was patent.

Plantation House and Garden

The family lived in a former plantation house. Better appointed than most they date from the colonial days when rich men could keep the poorly paid servants to run the establishments. The house was impressive and situated in an idyllic spot.

Plantation House garden 1PlantationHouse garden 2Plantation House garden 3




and breadfruit were among the plants.

This evening Jackie and I dined on her scrumptious cottage pie, carrots, and cauliflower. She drank Blanche de Namur and I drank Cimarosa Reserva Privada malbec 2013.


Make Love, Not War


Now that our garden possesses better flooring than that inside the house, we cannot light bonfires in overflowing, legless, rusty, wheelbarrows any more. On another gloriously sunny morning we therefore went on a galvanised garden incinerator search. Beginning with Otter nurseries we performed a local tour, ending up where we had started. The bin we had been shown earlier had just been sold. The only alternative one was being used to display other goods because it had no lid. The assistant had obviously forgiven us for spurning her earlier offer, because she went hunting and found a lid. This evening, we tried out the pyre, which produced an intense, contained, heat.

Bee on dahlia

Furry bees are stocking up for winter.

Owl, and bess on sedums

Behind Jackie’s new owl they scour the sedums,

View alongside northern border of Phantom Path

Eucalyptus and wheels

as the sun casts its light across the garden.


Weeding of the paths has to be done with a certain amount of circumspection if one wishes to preserve self-seeded violas.

Salinger Wedding 15.9.45 001

On 15th September 1945, one month after VJ day, the date that signalled the final conclusion of the Second World War, escorts of uniformed Wrens and soldiers lined up at the wedding of Miss Daphne V. Mitchell, Wren, with Captain Raymond J. Salinger, R.E.M.E. This took place at St Mark’s Church, Highcliffe, after which guests were invited to a reception at The Walkford Hotel. Throughout the globe, brides and grooms at that time must truly have felt they had been given a licence to make love, not war.

Salinger Wedding 15.9.45 002

Seventy years on, Daphne and Ray, who still live in Walkford, are about to celebrate their platinum anniversary.

This was the event celebrated in the album from which their son Ron has asked me to produce a selection of 10″ x 8″ prints. Because most of the photographs are small, and all need quite a lot of retouching in the scanning, I began with just two today.

This evening we dined on chicken Kiev, boiled new potatoes and cauliflower, and a melange of peppers, mushrooms, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes fried in olive oil. Custard tarts were to follow. I drank Louis de Companac cabernet sauvignon 2014.

Robin Hood Theatre

Jackie drove me to and from New Milton station today, in order for me to travel to Waterloo to lunch with Carol.

Station garden

The Hampshire station itself is impeccably kept, but the garden attached to the railway buildings has seen better days. It now boasts a collection of discarded supermarket trolleys, burst wooden planters, and the ubiquitous buddleia plants.

On the journey up, I enjoyed a brief spell as an interfering old git. I walked through two of the five carriages before I found a seat. I had to claim it. I came to a halt between two four seat sections. Only four of the eight held passengers. On one side a young couple sat opposite their wheeled case laid across the other two. Alongside them one seat was occupied by a walking stick; another by a backpack. I announced: ‘Well, I need one of these’. A young man politely settled his bag on his knees.

Throughout the journey people stopped, looked at the large case, and silently walked on. Soon, an announcement informed us that more customers were expected, and asked that  luggage be removed from seats. The couple did not move. After a minute or two, ‘excuse me’ said I, and asked the man if he had heard the announcement. ‘I did’, he replied. ‘And you have seen people looking at your case and moving on?’, I continued. There was no reply. In mitigation I said that I knew this was a difficult train for luggage. ‘I’ll find somewhere to put it’, he said, and carried it back down the carriage. After he had done so, another man, who had twice walked on past the case, and must have been standing in the aisle further along, collapsed into one of the now vacant seats and thanked the young man. A woman sat in the other, and also expressed gratitude.

From Waterloo I walked along The Cut to Tas restaurant.

Emma Cons Gardens

In Cornwall Road, SE1, a young woman sat on a low wall, speaking into her mobile phone, in Emma Cons Gardens signThis plot is very small, and contains no benches, but at least they have made an effort.

The Young Vi The Trial

‘High Society’ is still being performed at The Old Vic, and further along The Cut, Rory Kinnear looks down on us from The Young Vic where he is receiving acclaim for his performance in ‘The Trial’.

Cigarette ends

Smoking is not, of course, permitted in our theatres, or in any other workplace or public building. Perhaps that is why the sunken gravel-coated paving around a nearby young plane tree has been converted into an ashtray.

Even before I passed these famous theatres, I was thinking of the Robin Hood Theatre at Averham, just outside Newark in Nottinghamshire. It was the setting of Rumer Godden’s novel ‘A Candle for St Jude’, that brought it to mind. This book was my train reading. Except to say that the action takes place in a private theatre, I will write more about it when I have finished it.

UnknownRobin Hood Theatre’s website describes it as ‘a timber-built private theatre of 1913 set in the grounds of the former Rectory; outbuildings which were once stables are now used for storing scenery, properties and costumes. One such outhouse contains two small dormitories which can accommodate drama students on their occasional visits to the theatre. The auditorium is on one level, the rear half raked, seated in 15 straight rows each containing ten seats. This is a most interesting and much-loved little playhouse. The backstage arrangements are quaint, compact and different.’

It is unconfirmed that Actor Manager Sir Donald Wolfit who was born and raised in Balderton, on the other side of Newark, acted there as a schoolboy.

During our Newark years Jessica and I enjoyed several performances in this historic venue.

Lunch with Carol at Tas was a delightful occasion. We enjoyed our usual entertaining conversation, and the food and service was as good as my last visit. We had different meze starters, mine being calamari, and garlic sausages; and both chose an excellent chicken casserole to follow. My choice of wine was the house red. Baklava was our chosen dessert, followed by excellent coffee.