The Sap Is Rising

A light frost fell on the fields last night and Jackie had to scrape ice off the windscreen before driving me to the G.P. surgery at Milford on Sea for the successful removal of the staples from my knee. Rather unfairly, it seems to me, some members of the medical fraternities and sororities refer to orthopaedics as ‘The Carpenters’. However, I have to say that the curving row of hurdles penetrating my flesh did look as if it has been applied by an upholsterer’s gun. The nurse’s staple remover was a little more delicate than those found in Staples stationary stores.

After this we travelled along the coast road, where I began my morning’s photoshoots through my passenger window.

The Needles convoy trailed after the Isle of Wight lighthouse;

Also silhouetted along the Milford coastline were walkers with dogs and a woman pushing a child in a buggy;

A few gulls wandered about the car parks, where a crow set itself up for a long vigil.

Turning away from the coast we set off along the Beaulieu Road out of Lymington, where ponies, the silvery greys blending with similar hued birches, enhanced the landscape.

On Bull Hill, the younger cattle squared up for head butts, competing for or waiting their turn for humping practice. The older beasts watched in silence. The sap was definitely rising.

Whilst in Pilley we briefly visited Elizabeth who had spent the morning with BT engineers attempting to discover why her landline had stopped working.

A trio of goats we passed in Warborne Lane on our way home were rather less frisky than their bovine neighbours.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s tasty chicken jalfrezi with savoury rice.

P. S. Jackie has researched the activities of the young heifers. This is what she learned from Wikipedia:

‘Bulling is a behaviour seen in cattle when one mounts another, usually when one or the other is a female in oestrus (on heat);[1] “bulling” is commonly used as a term for a female in oestrus. Female cattle in oestrus may mount any adult cattle, especially a bull (fertile male) if one is present, but they will also mount castrated males or other females. A bulling female will often also be mounted by other cattle, both male and female (only fertile males are usually capable of mating). A dominant bull will defend the bulling female from being mounted by other cattle.

Bulling is used by farmers to recognise oestrus, which is important to determine the fertile period when cows may be artificially inseminated.[1] Care is needed to identify whether the animal in oestrus is the one mounting or being mounted, and of course sometimes both animals may be in oestrus.

Mounting behaviour is also sometimes seen between adult cattle in the absence of a female in oestrus.’

Hay Ho

This morning Aaron of A.P. Maintenance completed his preparation of the Rose Garden for winter that is still being kept at bay.

A week or so back he gave the shrub roses a good haircut. Today he laid our two year old compost around their bases.

Clumps of bright yellow bidens, like these at the foot of our sculpture, Florence;

Little irises, heucheras, lamium, and geraniums;

a fig flowering in the Palm Bed;

and this clematis on the Westbrook Arbour, all speak of the season’s confusion.

This morning I helped Elizabeth load her car with belongings to take to her Pilley house. This afternoon Jackie and I followed this up by unloading them for her. We then continued on a forest drive.

The lake that has been mostly dry during the summer once more bears ripples and reflections.

Bustling goats in a field alongside Jordans Lane competed in a dodgem race for first bite at the bundles of hay clutched under their speeding keeper’s left arm.

On an open space beside Bull Hill a group of stumpy little ponies chomped on their own food.

From here we sped off to Mudeford, arriving just in time for sunset. While I was taking these shots

I was unaware that Jackie was adding her own sequence, featuring me among the silhouettes.

Preening swans,

one with an entourage of gulls, completed the picture.

Elizabeth returned in the evening and we all dined on Jackie’s splendidly hot chilli con carne and toothsome savoury rice. My sister drank Hop House Lager; my wife drank Hoegaarden; and I finished the Merlot

A Cock-Fight

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. REPEAT IF REQUIRED.

On another hot day with a glorious cloudless blue sky, Jackie and I spent the morning shopping for birthday presents for Shelly and for Poppy.

First stop was Otter Nurseries where we bought a couple of skimmias for Jackie’s sister,

Rudbeckia 1Rudbeckia 2

and two interesting new bronzed rudbeckias for ourselves. There are plenty of buds on these latter plants for the Head Gardener to bring to perfection in a very short time.

Otter Nurseries 1Otter Nurseries 2

We felt rather sad at the emptiness of such a large, splendidly stocked, outlet on such a day. This was a clear indication that the seasons are changing.

Sammy Miller’s Motorcycle Museum in Bashley Common Road was the next venue. This, we thought, was a suitable establishment at which to find girlie items for Shelly and for our granddaughter.

You may well be surprised at this, if you don’t know that the outbuildings of the museum contain a number of shops attractive to tourists. Whilst I wandered around outside, Jackie bought a pastel blue quartz necklace for her sister, and another item suitable for a one-year old.

Motorcycle Park and petrol pump

There were many motorcycles parked in their dedicated area. This one is alongside one of the antique petrol pumps that line the walls.

Milk cart and urn

Snacks and drinks were being enjoyed in the shopping precinct which was generously supplied with garden ornaments including this milk cart;

Farm cart

a farm cart;

Farm machinery 2

and various items of farm machinery;

Farm machinery 1

more of which was distributed among the animals on the borders of the site.

Duck

A paddle of ducks welcomes cool shade and a running stream

Goat

Goats

There are basking goats, two of which really stink like their cheese.

Goats and chicken

Chickens seem oblivious to this.

Rooster

A vociferous rooster crows continuously.

Turkey 1

Leaving his lady-love in the shade of his shed,

Turkey 2

a plumage plumped turkey

Turkey 3

made his sedate and purposeful way along the front of the pen.

Turkeys 1

Coming to a halt at a wire window he silently confronted the occupant.

Rooster, chicken and turkey

‘Fight. Fight. Fight’, cried the rooster, summoning the chicken audience

Turkeys 2Turkeys 3

as the confrontation continued.

A farmhand explained the situation. Earlier this morning, there had, indeed, been a cock-fight over the hen. That is why the unfortunate challenger was penned up. These creatures are capable of inflicting serious damage in their duels.

This evening we dined at The Raj in Old Milton. My main course was Chingri Bullet with giant prawns that must surely have been indulged with Jackie’s plant food. Jackie’s was chicken sag. We shared special fried rice, a paratha, and an onion bahji; and both drank Kingfisher.

Preparing For Visitors

Dawn Traffic

Travelling into the first streaks of dawn this morning, the usual commuter traffic sped along Christchurch Road in the direction of Lymington;

Clematis freckles

whilst in our garden the aged gazebo has flecked the clematis Cirrhosa purpurascens with rusty freckles

The proprietor of Fagan’s menswear shop in New Milton has occasionally fitted me from her parents’ outlet, Hunt’s, for big and tall men, in Boscombe. As regular readers will know, the last jacket she produced wasn’t quite big enough. Jackie therefore drove me to Boscombe, where, clearly one of Hunt’s smaller customers, I was able to buy two jackets and order a suit.

This town, now a suburb of Bournemouth, still boasts a fine, sandy beach. As it was a fine, springlike, morning we diverted to the beach.

Two men on a bench

Benches on the clifftop were occupied by basking companions.

A long zigzagged path led down to the beach. Leaving Jackie on a bench conveniently situated halfway down, I continued to investigate. I walked along to the pier, back up a similar path to the top, and through Bournemouth Rotary Club’s sponsored garden to our parking spot.

Diggers on beach

On the way down I was intrigued by a collection of inactive heavy plant on the sandy beach. This, I learned, was an effort to reclaim the sand for the summer’s visitors.

Walkers between diggers and beach huts

I noticed that there was a useful gap in the row of beach huts where a woman slowly pushing a buggy would eventually appear. After waiting for what seemed an age, I got the shot, but the inevitable happened. Masquerading as the proverbial bus, a gentleman emerged from the opposite direction.

Diggers on beach and pier

I then met a couple ascending the slope. They told me what was happening, and why there was no current activity. Progress on the project is governed by the tides, so the men worked from 10 p.m. last night until 7 o’clock this morning, and would resume at 2 p.m. During this stage they will refurbish the groynes (no, Mr. WordPress, not groins). When that is complete, dredging of sand from beneath the waves will commence. It is expected that enough sand to reach the level of the promenade will be shifted by the month of May. The structure in the distance is the pier.

Digger 1

I was quite lucky to make this photograph. I turned off the camera in order to retract the lens, poked it through the wire mesh you see on the right, turned it on again, and pointed it hopefully at my intended subject. I only needed to straighten the final image a little bit.

It wasn’t long before I discovered that this ingenuity had been unnecessary (It was my Dad’s favourite joke to get me to spell it – as in ‘unnecessary, spell it’ –  we always found it necessary to humour him).

Digger 2Digger 3

Eventually, you see, the barrier came to an end, and it was possible to walk round to the machines;

Rust on digger

to delight in the rust colour and textures of the smooth-worn grabbers,

StakesStake point

and the weathering of the pointed timber piles.

Opening beach hut 1Opening beach hut 2

The occasional beach hut, along the stretch leading to the pier, was being opened up.

Goats

The steep, scrub-laden, bank between these huts and the zigzag path was being cleared by a pair of goats.

Cleaning railings

I was most impressed by the final spring-cleaning effort. This cheerful pair were scrubbing the railings on the path up by Honeycombe Beach.

Collecting water

Water was collected in buckets from a tap further up the slope.

Local Chinese takeaway set meals for two always last us two days. This evening was our second helping of yesterday’s, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I made further inroads into the malbec.

An Inspirational Visit

Accompanied by a couple of friends we lunched on excellent fish and chips at The Trusty Servant.  I drank a pint of Doom Bar.  After our meal we attended Minstead Lodge where Noura met us for a tour of this huge building, probably a Victorian reproduction of an earlier manor house.

It was Noura’s day off, because the establishment, apart from the residential students and some staff, is closed at weekends.  However, she came in from her home in Ringwood to accommodate us.  Her husband and two year old daughter also gave generously of their time and wandered around with us.  What was once a family home was bought with a generous legacy and turned into a Training Project for people with learning disabilities.  Martin, whom I’d met soon after we arrived in Minstead, had set up and directed the place for twenty five years, until recently moving to a liaison role with Furzey Gardens.

Kitchen Garden, Minstead Lodge

I had had no idea what a thriving community it is, or how extensive the house and grounds are, so found the visit most informative and spiritually uplifting. Garden, Minstead Lodge One of our guides was a gentleman in transitional accommodation before a move to independent living in Totton.  A delightful and courteous young man, he took pride in showing us round, telling us what the various activities were, and, I suspect, pulling Noura’s leg.  He was clear that he would continue to come and work here after he had moved.  After twenty years in residence I am sure he would need that continuity.  His special area of expertise was feeding and caring for the animals.  We were shown horses, donkeys, and goats all of which answered his call.  The geese were less interested, possibly because their feeder passed us on his way to their field as we came away from it.  Noura’s daughter was particularly fascinated by the chickens, and clutched a couple of what looked like pigeon feathers she had found earlier.  Those preparing for independence in this way live on the upper floor of their current building.  Our guides seemed very willing to give us all the time we needed, in taking us through the communal rooms and the gardens.

There are a number of finely crafted wooden tables and chairs made, seamlessly, out of single enormous trees.  These were made by a local craftsman as payment in kind for professional services rendered by the owner.  Crib figures, Minstead LodgeTable in window seat, Minstead LodgeOne held crib figures, behind which, clearly recently having descended from the chimney to the open fireplace in one of the panelled reception rooms, could be glimpsed a diminutive Father Christmas.  Others stood by window seats from which views down the valley and across the forest could be enjoyed.  The kitchen garden was impressive, and plants were on sale outside the reception area.

The link with Furzey Gardens and the Chelsea Garden was evident on the walls in the form of superb reportage paintings in the style of those decorating the sister project. Kevin making a leaf  We were told by staff member Andy that each resident and staff member of the Lodge made one of the stained glass leaves woven into the walls of the thatched building that features in the winner of Chelsea gold.

After our lunch a light supper of cheese on toast and apple pie and custard sufficed for our evening sustenance.

A Beguiling Smile

I had my first extended conversation with the local roadsweeper this morning.  It was mostly about the weather, but that still counts.  We are to have rain, which had already begun, on and off over the weekend.  But it is needed for the fields.  This was more successful than my attempted contribution to the discussion in the Post Office about a young lad who had just skidded off his scooter outside.  Like the boy, my words fell on stony ground.  He got up unscathed.  I departed in disarray.

The delivery of loft insulation materials did not happen yesterday ‘because the driver is on holiday’.  It is now arranged for next Wednesday, the day before I leave.  Preparatory work will continue on Monday.

In the rain, I walked along the Pomport Road and up the route around the field I still call the donkey’s. Floral display At most corner junctions in Sigoules there are bright floral displays which brightened up the grey atmosphere. Crocuses Yellow crocuses burst forth in clumps in the gardens and along the grassy banks by the side of the road.  Some months ago I watched roofers working on what I take to be a barn conversion. Barn conversion roof Their work now forms an attractive patchwork quilt.

My assinine friend has not been in residence for some time now, and at first I thought the field empty.  Two goats, however, still occupied the top corner. Goat One hung its head, but the other clambered from beneath the tree that had sheltered the donkey back in April, stuck its nose through the wire fence, and gave me a beguiling bearded smile.

Le Code Bar, post-summer, is now closed on Sundays, and not serving food on Saturdays.  Today being Saturday I was saved disappointment by Fred, who, although in sole charge of the bar, vanished into the kitchen and produced roast duck, chips, and salad.  He needn’t have worried that the duck might be too dry.

Holly’s Beauty

ConvulvulusLight rain began to fall just as I left home to repeat the walk I had taken with Matthew and Oddie on 7th.  This precipitation was to take the form of intermittent showers for the first three quarters of an hour or so.  During the few periods when the sun pierced the grey cloud cover, the hedgerows, now counting convulvulus among their constituents, glistened with the raindrops.  Not having the excuse of Mat’s ageing little terrier to call Jackie to collect me from the bottle bank, I had to walk the final stretch up Running Hill as well.

Little Chef

Pavement relicOnce I had emerged from the forest at Little Chef I was alongside the A31 for a short time.  I passed that building, the Travelodge, the Esso garage and various houses which are found roughly at the area where the signs to Stoney Cross bring the hopeful traveller.

What is now a major East/West dual carriageway has very little in the way of pedestrian thoroughfares.  The derelict footpath from just past the Esso garage to Forest Road betrays the fact that ordinary people without cars once trod this way.  Now it is only people like me who venture along it.  HollyhocksA row of hardy hollyhocks, having escaped to the central reservation, clung to the thin soil as passing vehicles did their best to create enough turbulence to tear them up.Thurston

I exchanged waves with a woman working in a garden not far from a tall, isolated, house called Rufuston that seems to have its own Royal Mail collection box.  The name must come from the nearby Rufus Stone (see post of 19th November last year). As I reached this house I paused to photograph it.  The woman tentatively, with a quizzical look, approached me from my left.  She wondered why I was taking photographs.  It seemed a reasonable question really, especially as  it was her house whose image I had just pocketed.  My explanation of what I was up to must have reassured her, for we parted pleasantly and she expressed the wish that the weather would stay fine for the rest of my walk.

At the bottom of the hill that leads from The Splash to the Furzey Gardens junction, Tim was digging mud out of the ditch that leads to his farm.  This trench joins a pipe that runs under the road.  Like the ditch, the pipe was full of soggy earth.  Tim was working to clear as much as he could from the ditch and the underground pipe. Tim I have before wondered whether there was a machine to carry out this task.  If there is, Tim wasn’t aware of it as he plied his garden fork.  Although the farm is his, he said the land on which the road lies belongs to the manor, the owners of which, in his view are responsible for the clearance.  Apparently in the old days there was a villager with a technical title Tim couldn’t remember, whose job it was to keep the ditches clear.  Tim also told me that the two goats and few sheep on his little farm are what might be called rescue animals. The goats were found abandoned as kids some fourteen years ago near Godshill; the sheep were ailing as lambs and bottle-fed in the same haven.  I joked that if I found any stray creature in the forest I would know where to bring it.

This afternoon was spent once again grappling with security problems with BT e-mail accounts.  Firstly I received one of those hijacking missives purporting to come from someone in urgent need of money.  Because the whole e-mail address of the sender is taken over by these evil scammers, any reply never reaches the alleged originator.  It goes to the crooks.  This happened to Louisa a year or so ago.  Chris and Frances were said to have been mugged in Rome where the Embassy was unhelpful.  Chris was visiting our mother in West End at the time.  These messages are instantly recognisable firstly because anyone in such dire need would use the telephone, and secondly because the English is so appalling.  Neither Louisa nor Chris would write so badly.  The whole business is a dreadful headache for the true account holder, because it affects everyone in their address book.  All contacts are lost.

As I was contemplating the plight of my brother and sister-in-law I received an e-mail allegedly from Yahoo! Customer Care which seemed to me to be equally spurious and contained the usual booby-trapped ‘Click here’ message.  It had not even been put into the Spam folder by BTYahoo! mail.  I smelt a rat and phoned BT.  When I finally got to an agent he said he didn’t deal with such technical matters and consequently put me in a queue for technical help.  It took some time before I got a person, who didn’t know whether this latest message was Spam or not.  After I read it out two or three times, pointing out the errors and where it didn’t seem to make sense, she decided it was more likely than not to be a scam.  She advised me to put it into the Spam folder and send it to abuseadbt.  I asked if that was all one word and we managed between us to establish that it wasn’t.  The ad bit was the symbol @.  When I asked how I was now to have any faith in BT security she told me that she herself had been unable to receive messages for six months because she had been hacked and her password rejected, until suddenly it was accepted again.  This failed to reassure me.

I had opted to take part in a telephone survey after the call.  It consisted of a triple choice questionnaire, 1 for good, 2 for bad, 3 for unsure; followed by an opportunity to make recorded comments about why I had scored it as I did.  I took the opportunity.  In the midst of this, despite the repetition of how important and helpful my views would be, I must have run out of time, for I was cut off in full flow.  It was a machine that conducted the survey. I don’t think it was programmed to register when it has interrupted the customer and call them back to offer more time.  Either that or I upset it when I mentioned that a difference in accents of spoken English makes for a certain difficulty in communication.

I am not convinced of the security of my e-mail account.  I cannot understand how the survey as performed can be of benefit to anyone.  BT, if you read this, I am open to all attempts at reassurance on either matter.

Fuchsia Holly's beautyOf all the different varieties of fuchsia Jackie has been growing in her pots, the one the blooms of which she has most eagerly awaited is named ‘Holly’s beauty’ (otherwise known to her as Orlaith).  This has come into its own today.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s chilli con carne and pilau rice.  My drink was Chilano cabernet sauvignon 2011 and Jackie’s was Hoegaarden.