On The Road To Bridgetown

Ladybird

Ladybird in window box

I very rarely stage a photograph, so I probably wouldn’t have thought of Jackie’s ladybird shots this morning. She spotted a somewhat sleepy ladybird – not literally of course, because this one already wore its spots – on a rounded pebble in a colourless corner. Thinking it needed something red to set it off, she picked up the pebble perch and plonked it among primulas in the window box on the front wall. The obliging insect stayed put.

We then filled two more canvas bags with hedge clippings and took them to the dump. Our spoils included two large pots and three folding wooden chairs.

Through the medium of donations of plants, seeds, gardening book and tools, the forthcoming First Gallery exhibition intends to raise funds for Southampton public libraries. Jackie will be donating some of the many seedlings that crop up in our paths and elsewhere in the garden. One of these is the geranium palmatum, a splendidly shrub-like perennial.

Geranium palmatum

I made some small prints with which to enable buyers to know what they were purchasing.

Path - dead end

This image of The Dead End Path shows the scale of the plants.

This afternoon I scanned another dozen colour negatives taken on my walk along the road to Bridgetown, Barbados, in March 2004.

Bougainvillea 1

Bougainvillea 2Bougainvillea 3

Most gardens contained a brightly coloured, prolific, bougainvillea, which also adorned the roadside.

Taxi in road

Taxis were really people carriers who happily held the centre of the road as they careered along,

Woman boarding bus

occasionally stopping to pick up passengers at bus stops. Were they actually a variety of bus, I wondered?

Egret

An elegant egret, craning its neck in the undergrowth,

Plane BWIA

seemed oblivious of the BWIA passenger plane flying overhead.

Like the shady tree in the bus stop picture above

Flower unknown 1Flower unknown 2Flower unknown 3Flower unknown 4

I could not identify many other blooming flowers.

This evening we dined on succulent chicken Kiev, creamy mashed potato, green beans, and ratatouille; followed by chocolate sponge pudding and cream. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank reserve des Tuguets madiran, 2012

The Independent

On a bright and sunny morning Jackie drove me to Giles’s Fox Hat home, where I delivered the Chesterton material he had lent me. She returned home and came back later to pick me up from the village of Milford on Sea. I had reached there by walking down Sharvills Road, up New Valley Drive and down Barnes Lane. The left knee managed the job quite well, but the calf bleated a bit. Giles had not been at home, but I wandered round his garden that had featured in Milford Open Gardens last June. Here is one of his stunning stained glass creations:Stained glassMaple and poppies

and a shot of maples and poppies enlivening his front plot.

Shoppers

Milford’s shoppers were enjoying the sunshine.

I sat on a bench on the green watching them all go by as I awaited my transport. In the process I engaged in conversation with others on the benches, including a gentleman reading The Independent. When I explained my previous link with the newspaper he said he didn’t solve crosswords, but his wife did. Maybe she had grappled with Mordred. Gentleman readin The Indepent

He was happy to be photographed,

Derrick reading The Independent

but thought it far more appropriate to return the favour.

Back in our gardenThalictrum

shade-loving thalictrum is now blooming,

Sweet William

as are white sweet Williams.

Bee on geranium palmatum

Yesterday, I wrongly identified the geranium that was attracting bees as a palmatum. This is the correct one.

This afternoon I cut the grass and Jackie continued creative planting.

Our evening meal was collected by Jackie from Hordle Chinese Takeaway. It was as plentiful and as delicately or spicily flavoured as usual. My lady drank Hoegaarden and her Knight drank Via di Cavallo chianti 2014.

Patience Rewarded

A few days ago, our friend Barrie sent me a CD of his weekly radio programme in which he had featured my post ‘Death Of The Brown Velvet Suit’. A day or so afterwards I received a ripped open envelope with nothing inside, packaged in The Post Office’s transparent apology envelopes. These containers bear a phone number for complainants to use. Suspecting a deliberate act here, I retained the package, intending to check with Barrie.

Today, a lengthening thread on Streetlife, the local internet noticeboard, was begun. Apparently this is now rife in our area. I smelt a rotten apple, and telephoned the complaints department. This is what I then posted on Streetlife:

‘I have just phoned the complaints department. After the usual string of options, I got a person. I made it clear that this problem is rife in the area, and that ‘someone in your office is tampering with our mail’. I was given a reference number, a promise to report it immediately, and also of a written response. Watch this space’.

Damaged envelopeMy own notes have been added to the envelope.

Jackie has done a marvellous job of eradicating most of the more persistent brambles and sticky Willies. Today I put in my twopenn’orth and cleared the few I could find.

Bee on geranium palmatum

Here is the now customary bee picture. This one collects nectar from a geranium.

The parent starlings, striving to satisfy their boisterous brood, are now becoming quite cantankerous with me. In fact I was thankful I was not another starling, such as the one Jackie had seen yesterday daring to approach this family’s territory. Starlings normally gather in a murmuration, such as that collective that stole the chips at Mudeford on September 9th 2013. But not, apparently, when they are rearing chicks. Our pair saw off the intruder in no uncertain terms. They are satisfied with warning me off from a safe distance.Starling 1

Now they perch on the rooftop for a while, squawking at me, fly off in a feint

Starling 3

then return,

Starling 2

drop down, and dive into the facia.

How they can create such a racket with their beaks so full is beyond me. It took three days of intermittent standing with varying degrees of patience to get these shots.

There was a queue outside Mr Pink’s fish and chip shop in Milford on Sea, where another bout of stationary waiting around was rewarded by the usual fresh and crisp cod, chips, and pickled onions that we enjoyed sitting in the car on the sea front.Queue outside Mr Pink's

The gentleman in the check shirt told me that this queue was nothing. It usually trailed many yards down the road. Whilst enjoying our meal and, in Jackie’s case, Hoegaarden, and mine, the last of the Cotes du Rhone, we watched a soaring seagull make a beeline for the P&O cruise ship Adonia passing yachts and the Isle of Wight on its way out to the ocean.P&O cruise ship and yachts on The SolentP&O cruise ship passing Isle of Wight

This made me think of our friend Jessie, who is rather partial to her cruises.

Streets Of London

Shadow, grass, gravel

Again, the early morning sun, casting shadows across the gravel to meet grasses on the other side of the path, worked it’s magic

Peony

on the peonies;

Roses

on new rambling red roses;

Aquilegias

on rose tinted aquilegias;

Clematis Warsaw Nike

on the clematis Doctor Ruppel;

Geranium palmatum

on a somewhat nibbled geranium palmatum;

Bluebottle on frog's back

and warming the stone of a frog’s back on which a bluebottle hitched a ride.

I have mentioned before, my, as yet unpublished, Streets of London Series. From March 2004 until some time in 2008, I conducted this exercise, wandering around during breaks in my working day. The constraint I set myself was that the street signs should appear in the shots. There are many hundreds of these colour slides taken with my Olympus OM2, so I decided to embark upon scanning them. I entered the first dozen, from March to April 2004, today.

Streets of London001

From Hanover Gate, NW1 can be seen the burnished dome of Regent’s Park mosque.

Streets of London002

Warwick Place W9 stands on the corner of Warwick Avenue. The mind boggles at the van’s signage.

Streets of London003

The ubiquitous McDonald’s has an outlet on the corner of York Way N1. Perhaps Securitas is coming to collect the takings.

Streets of London004

A spindly young London Plane comes into leaf on Castellain Road W9.

Streets of London005

Maida Avenue W2 runs alongside the Little Venice stretch of the Regent’s Canal, forming a junction with Warwick Avenue which spans the bridge. The white building on our left is The Bridge House, featured in ‘Time To Go’.

Streets of London007

This corner of Gray’s Inn Road, WC1 stands diagonally opposite Kings Cross Station. The area is always clogged with traffic.

Streets of London011

The station itself stands on the corner of Euston Road and York Way, N1.

Streets of London008

The subject of the witty window cleaner sculpture in Chapel Street, NW1, scratches his head in contemplation of the task of cleaning Marks and Spencer’s glass fronted tower standing alongside Edgware Road Metropolitan Line station.

Streets of London009

From this corner of Warwick Avenue, W2, narrow boats on the Regent’s canal are visible through the railings.

Streets of London006

In Sardinia Street WC2, Angelo advertises his hairdressing, whilst thespians trip the tango.

Streets of London012

The eponymous Church Street Market runs from Edgware Road. At this far end it is joined by Penfold Street, NW8.

The sign for Gracedale Road, SW, is now many miles from Furzedown, so I have inserted it in a more appropriate post.

Margery and Paul popped in for a very welcome surprise visit, ‘to check up on’ me. This was, as usual, great fun. Paul put me right on the jackdaws I had recently incorrectly identified as hooded crows. I amended the post accordingly. Thanks, Paul.

Jackie returned home early this evening, and we dined on her superb chicken and egg jalfrezi with special fried rice. She drank Hoegaarden whist I opened another bottle of the Madiran and drank some of it.

Fag Ends

Front garden cuttings heapBenjamin Renouf and Tony of Abre Electrical arrived on time this morning to fit a new fusebox, run a power cable to the kitchen from the upstairs circuit, and generally check over our supply. They were quiet, efficient, and wasted no time, although they were here all day. I would certainly use them again.

I spent the morning further clearing the front garden. This involved the usual uprooting and pulling out bramble and ivy, and heavy pruning of overgrown shrubs. By noon I had a large pile to be added to the vast, constantly growing heap at the far end of the garden.Derrick with cuttings heap 2

Before lunch I trudged down to the postbox and back. A trudge was all I could manage.

 

Great tit and robin on feederAfter lunch I took a break and watched the birds. The avian activity was fascinating. Some were prepared to share the feeding station with others. The robin and the great tit seemed unfazed by the other’s presence. Starling and young blackbirdA young blackbird, however, was most disgruntled at the invasion of its territory by a starling.Young blackbird on feeder After it had seen off the rival, it turned around and began to scoff.Blue titBlue tit on feederBlue tit on feeder 2

It was fascinating to follow a blue tit’s progression from the netting to the seeds.

Female blackbird on feederThe crow has desisted from trying to clamber onto the feeder. Other birds, like this female blackbird, a little larger that those others depicted, flap around somewhat, as they have trouble landing.

The strong sunlight revealed the inner nature of honesty:Honesty

and lit attractive patterns on the geranium palmatum, such that it was tempting to play around with the image:Geranium palmatum

or perhaps not:Geranium palmatum 2

 

One can’t really improve on nature.

Throughout the day, Jackie continued with her creative planting, weeding and watering. This involved the removal of some heavy stones with her Time Team trowel.

While we sat on the patio before dinner, Jackie mentioned how some visitors had ground their cigarette ends into her grass and patio paving whilst sitting in her garden. This took me back to one summer in the late 1980s in Newark, and to Lincolnshire N.S.P.C.C. I was facilitating some team-building days for this staff team in Lindum House. Before the ban on smoking in the workplace, I ensured that there was a plentiful supply of ash trays in the rooms being used. No-one smoked. Yet after each break period the trays were filled with dog ends. When I asked why this was, I was informed that the smokers had all enjoyed their cigarettes in the garden, but had brought the stumps inside so as not to spoil the garden.

After this chat, Jackie collected fish and chips from Ashleigh’s, and we ate them at home. I finished the Bordeaux with mine.

Blue

Two days ago I was diverted from planting out flowers from pots, by beginning to clear a path. Yesterday, cutting the grass diverted me from that.

When I began the clearance, the path was not visible. It just looked like an overgrown shrubbery with a couple of blue painted sinks dropped into it. Sinks in pathBy this morning the work had revealed an elderly gravel path with the remains of dry stone walls either side of it. Shrubs, brambles, and weeds had severely encroached upon it.

And what was to be done about the sinks? They were each filled with earth, and contained a number of interesting little plants.

Thyme transplantedWell, I had to move them, and knew I had no chance of doing so unless I emptied them. I did that, and transplanted various items, such as two different kinds of thyme placed in the patio area.

This path is really an access route to the shrubbery, and leads simply to a cemented stone wall dividing off the patio. It seemed to me that the sinks could be useful if placed against the wall. I asked Jackie for her views. She thought they would look good on top of the wall, thus giving them height. Well, she would, wouldn’t she? No way could I lift them the extra couple of feet up there on my own. And I didn’t think we could do it together.

I manoeuvred these heavy stoneware kitchen sinks to the far end of the path and stood and scratched my head. Then I was summoned for lunch, which seemed rather a good idea.

Snails dormintoryIn the process of moving their bed I disturbed a group of slumbering snails. Their dorm master had not been alert to the danger. They dropped off one by one.

On one of my trips to the compost heap my eye was caught by a large blue bloom peering through a shrubbery by the decking on the other side of the garden. Clematis large blueThis was a newly flowering clematis which I cannot name.

After lunch I managed to hoist one of the sinks onto the lower wall at the side of the path and was beginning to gird my loins for the higher heave when Superwoman arrived. Together we raised the blue painted containers into position.

It would not be surprising for my readers to question the aesthetics of bright blue paintwork that was bound to peel off and leave shreds mingling with the gravel. Anyone who has done so will empathise with our thoughts and feelings about a similar hue, among others equally strident, having been liberally splashed around inside the house, leaving spatters on shelves, fixtures, and carpets. In no way do I exaggerate.Path to sinks

Finally I repositioned the stones at the sides of the path, finished the weeding, trimmed back some shrubs, and raked the remaining gravel as smooth as I could. The large plant in the foreground of the picture is a mature geranium palmatum. The flowers of another can be seen further down on the right.

Tree peony rescuedFinally I planted the frail-looking rescued tree peony. This plant had not been given a pot. It lay on its side on sandy soil. It has spent two days heeled in a large container, and now stands, reasonably erect, in its allotted home. It is to be hoped that, if it does survive, it is appreciative of the efforts that have gone into accommodating it.

Another excellent meal was served at The Jarna, where we dined this evening. We sat under blue spotlights this time. Blue light on riceThey lent an interesting colour to my rice. We both drank Cobra.

Woman’s Mastery Over Machine

Grass needing cutting

When I intimated yesterday that I might cut the grass I didn’t imagine that was all I would do, nor that the task would take me all day.

I would like to tell the tale of this man’s mastery over a machine. Unfortunately, like George Washington, on this occasion, ‘I cannot tell a lie’. At least that fledgling U.S. President had successfully cut down a cherry tree. My job had to have been easier than that.

First I had to take the Bosch Strimmer out of its box. As I feared, there was a certain amount of assembly required. I managed, to a rather insecure extent, to do this , found the extension lead, plugged the machine’s cable into it and set sail. I cut a couple of blades of grass and the nylon cutting line broke. After rereading and following the instructions I was able  to extend another piece the required 9 centimetres and have another go. Same again. Except that this time there was no line visible and neither Jackie nor I was able to decipher how to undo the holder. Clearly the cutting device had difficulty coping with our macho grass nurtured on the soak away area from the septic tank. Apparently our excreta leaches through the walls of the tank into the soil at this particular point, producing a very healthy crop. There are lots of alliums in the garden. I wonder whether their rather pungent aroma serves a masking purpose.

Grass and shearsIt is not really a good idea to leave me to my own devices in such matters, but Jackie had no option because she was still trying to turn the terrible overlapping and chopped up tiling squares on the bathroom floor into a reasonably level and complete surface. Reflecting on the fact that she was grappling with a botch upstairs whilst I was doing the same with a Bosch in the garden, I gave up.

I conceded victory to the Strimmer, but I did not give up on the grass. I abandoned modern technology for a trusty, albeit rusty, pair of garden shears. It was down on my knees again. The kneeler was in service upstairs.

I had made considerable progress by lunchtime. Enough to give me confidence to continue afterwards.

My lady carried on upstairs until she had finished her job. She then came down and began to cook the dinner. Observing me snipping away outside, she thought: ‘I can’t leave him’. Thus taking pity on me she sat on the bench and put her mind to working out the problem with the machine. She realised I was using the wrong line and used more brute force than I had been confident to employ to remove the holder and replace the line. Jackie strimmingShe was soon on her feet strimming away. Naturally I got to my feet too.

Well how was I to know that when Herr Bosch says his product comes with extra strong line that that is not the one fitted in the holder, but one kept at the back of the handle?Jackie & grass cut

Jackie did allow me to have a go at strimming. I finished the job whilst she raked up the grass.

Geranium palmatumShe is delighted to see that we have numerous geranium palmatums in the garden. Many are clearly seedlings, and quite small, but some are huge shrub-like plants.

I t was quite beneficial that Jackie returned to cooking our dinner, for it was delicious.

Lemon chickenShe had taken chicken breasts marinaded in ginger, lemon and lime, added a Nando’s piri piri lemon marinade, topped the chicken with red and yellow peppers and baked the ensemble in olive oil for thirty minutes. This is her recipe for lemon and ginger chicken.

Mashed potato, crisp cauliflower and carrots, were accompanied by par-boiled parsnips stir fried with two sliced red onions and garlic. I call this a recipe for stir fried parsnips.

Jackie drank Hoegaarden with this, whilst I chose Marques de Montino rioja 2010. We finished our drinks on the garden bench.