The Chicks Have Hatched

One of the consequences of moving house is the need to wonder where to put things. This is very helpful in encouraging one to complete unfinished organisational tasks begun years ago. In about 2008/9, when living in Sutherland Place, I discovered that some of my books and slide boxes had been damaged by damp. The colour slides themselves were sound, but the boxes were on the wet side, so new containers were essential. I bought some, and decanted the positive films from the worst of the moistened ones. Although I had enough new receptacles to take the contents of the last, least damaged, box, I didn’t finish the task until yesterday. All in the interests of reducing by one the number of containers needing a home.

This led me, this morning, to resuscitating the ‘posterity’ series. My first photo-shoot of Jackie was made on Wimbledon Common in April 1966.Jackie 4.66 Here is one of the pictures, with the War Memorial in the background top left.

Before this I walked the whole length of Shorefield Road and Sea Breeze Road, taking in the vast acreage of the Country Park. Highway MaintenanceThe high-pitched screeching of the gulls over the stubble field on Downton Lane gave way to the deafening racket of the rookery, at times indistinguishable from that of a reversing Highway Maintenance vehicle.

Rook over nestRooks and nestRooks and nestsThe lofty nests of the frenetically active rooks are now apparenty occupied by ravenous chicks. The parents flap to and fro keeping their offspring from starving. Each rounded cluster of sticks is guarded by one adult whilst its mate energetically forages.

Building at ShorefieldStudland Common Nature Reserve boardAt the far end of the Sea Breeze section of the park, where building continues unabated, is a meandering stream-crossed woodland walk leading to Studland Common Nature Reserve. Although partly gravelled, the paths tend towards the muddy. Cow and gorse

The ear tags of cattle grazing in Studland Meadow reflected the gorse around them.

On my return I met and conversed with two separate dog-walkers. I was quite relieved that the West Highland terrier poised for attack was on the end of a lead, and had probably already had his breakfast.

This afternoon, as promised, our chests of drawers were delivered by Fergusson’s House Clearance.

The House of the Seven Gables coverBefore dinner I finished reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel ‘The House of the Seven Gables’, in the Folio Society edition illustrated by Francis Mosley. First published in 1851 this is an intriguing story rich in characterisation. The author’s skill in story-telling surmounts the wordiness of some of his language commensurate with his time of writing. The reader’s interest is maintained throughout. There is a touch of mystery about both the house and the writer’s tale, and he ties it all up tidily in the end.

Mosley is a versatile illustrator who remains one of my favourite Folio Society artists.

Our evening meal was roast lamb in tasty gravy, served with crisp vegetables. I drank Cimarosa Chilean merlot from 2013.

 

‘You Do Get About Don’t You?’

Landscape

Water coming off fieldDitchAlthough still rather windy, the morning after the storm dawned bright and sunny. On a springlike day rooks cawed on the wing and smaller birds sang in the trees or squabbled, flapping, in the bushes as the females fled the males. Water still poured off the fields and trickled down the gullies or roared into ditches as I walked the two fords ampersand.

A Highway Maintenance team had just finished patching the pitted tarmac at Seamans Corner.Highway Maintenance They agreed they were very busy at the moment. The rest of the team declined to be photographed and left the youngest member to face the camera.

Gloves and banana skinLaneClear streams rolled off the fields onto the lanes of Minstead. Two odd gloves and a banana skin nestling in one of the pools must have a story to tell.

Rivulets crossing the fords were still swollen, so much so that when I stood in the water to photograph the torrent, my socks were soaked.Ford

Ford waterTelephone boxThe telephone box at Newtown bears a notice informing us that coins are not accepted. Since there is nothing inside I wonder who might be considering a donation.

Sheep

Sheep were out in the field again.

Horse & trap

Teeth marksTwo women thanked me for photographing them in their horse drawn vehicle. I don’t think the teeth marks left on a tree by a stream came from their steed.

I have mentioned before that post is delivered throughout the area from a little red van. I often exchange waves with the bearded driver. Today our paths crossed on numerous occasions. As he parked up and approached a house clutching a couple of letters he quipped that he should have given me some and I could have delivered them for him. ‘You do get about, don’t you?’, he said.

Chicken jalfrezi and special fried rice.This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious chicken jalfrezi and special fried rice, with which I drank Cobra and she chose Hoegaarden. For the method of cooking the curry readers are referred to that for the lamb version described on 22nd January. In this case the chicken is not pre-cooked, but added at the same time as was the lamb. The richness of this particular sauce is obtained by adding up to half a pint of water as required and bubbling the pot on hob mark one for up to a couple of hours. Have a look at it, give it a stir, and see what you think.

Again, on the 22nd January, pilau rice has been described. Jackie has transformed this into what the restaurants call special fried rice with the addition of an egg.

Do not chuck the egg in straight from the shell, otherwise you will just bind all the rice together. Make a small single egg omelette, chop it up, and scatter the pieces into the mixture when it is virtually cooked. Stir it in. We said before that anything you wish can go into the rice. Today’s variation was peppers of three different colours.

Bon appétit.

Obstacles

Minstead landscape 12.12

The landscape after the deluge was pretty waterlogged today, but the light was bright and clear, giving us beautiful skies.

Apart from a diversion to Acres Down, my walk took the form of a roughly drawn ampersand.  I turned right at Minstead Hall, left down to the ford, right at the ford, through Fleetwater to Acres Down, and back via the other fork, going straight into the village from there.

Five or six ponies approached me as I walked down Running Hill. Ponies on road 12.12 They completely blocked the road.  I can’t say I was scared, just marginally apprehensive, to be surrounded by these creatures we have been warned not to touch.  Apparently they can bite.  I used my usual method of negotiating them, which is to hold my line and walk on.  Normally this works well.  This time the horses had the same idea.  One in particular, the light-brown white-maned creature in the centre of the picture, was into the head-to-head approach.  Close enough for me to smell its not unpleasant mustiness and eye its not very pleasant teeth.  As I rejected its desire for further intimacy, used the better part of valour and walked around this beast, I did momentarily think I would rather have been in one of the cars whose drivers were patiently waiting for the road to clear.  On skirting my interested pony I said ‘I’m not supposed to touch you, mate’.  I received no reply, and one of the most disconcerting aspects of these animals is that they are always absolutely silent.

Silhouetted sheep 12.12Sheep in the field alongside what I call Furzey Gardens road were silhouetted against the sky.

When taking the right fork after the ford I exchanged greetings with two Highway Maintenance workmen seated in their stationary truck.

Reaching the main road between Emery Down and the A31, I noticed for the first time a chalked sign advertising the Acres Down Farm Shop, and decided to go down and check it out. Acres Down ford 12.12 There was also a ford on this road, with fast-flowing water streaming across it.  Its footbridge looked rather inaccessible, but I thought I would give it a go.  Not a good idea.  There were three deterrents to taking this route: the thick, squelching mud; the piles of glistening horse shit; and the low branch requiring a limbo dancer’s technique to get under it.  Feeling intrepid, I persevered and reached the bridge.  One glance across to the other side made it clear that a better option would be to wade through the clean, fresh water.  I stepped into it and did just that.

The farm shop wasn’t open.  According to a notice it didn’t open for another ten minutes.  I thought I would wait.  A gentleman suggested I should ring the front door bell of the house next door.  I did.  A young woman told me it wasn’t open on Mondays.  As she said this she looked at me quizzically and said there was a notice which contained this information.  ‘Ah, yes, I read that.’ I said, ‘I’m retired you see.  Ah, yes.  Monday.  Sometimes I don’t know what day it is’.  This was the point at which I sensed her instincts were telling her to back away.  She stuck with it, however, and explained that her sister ran the shop and its stock was largely meat and eggs from the farm; various chutneys and pickles; and seasonal gifts.  I thanked her, saying that was just what I needed to know, and I could now report back on my find.  As I left, the helpful gentleman was starting to drive off.  Claiming to be a dodderer he said he’d forgotten the shop wasn’t open on Mondays.  Since I had told the young woman that he had suggested I ring the bell, she must have thought we were a right pair.

Waterlogged cones 12.12Returning down the road to Minstead which takes me to the left prong of the fork, I discovered evidence that my prediction yesterday, that the rainwater would reach the cones by the vast pool, was correct.  Water now trickled between the cones onto the private drive.  Rounding the corner now blocked by this water, I met my Highway Maintenance acquaintances.  This time they were leaning on their truck, one having a fag.  He was their spokesperson.  Perhaps because it was about three quarters of an hour since I had last passed them, he greeted me with: ‘We’re not skiving.  We’re waiting for a machine to clear all that water round there’.  Only when the water was cleared would they be able to determine what needed to be done to rectify the situation.  I told them about the obstacles to using the Acres Down ford footbridge.  They advised me to contact Hampshire County Council.  I said I wasn’t bothered enough for that and thought not many people walked that way.  They agreed.

As I walked up the road from the ford, the machine, not unlike the vast vacuum cleaner I described four days ago, passed me.  I considered the smoker would have time to finish his cigarette.

This evening we are going to The Amberwood Christmas quiz, where we will be fed what are promised to be very good and plentiful snacks.  Anything worthy of note will be recorded tomorrow because we will probably be late back.