The Holly And The Ivy

 

Our white sofa, being a sofa bed, is extremely heavy. In order to avoid damaging the new flooring, this morning Connor called upon

Mark to help him lift it into place.

Jackie ventured into the garden on this much brighter day than yesterday, announcing “I am going into the garden to photograph some loveliness.”  Her results included

raindrops on oak leaf pelargoniums,

on nasturtiums – only the red ones -,

on roses including Hot Chocolate,

Winchester Cathedral,

and pink carpet variety,

on vinca,

 

on cyclamen,

 

on camellia,

and on branches of Japanese maple,

weeping birch,

and the stems of Félicité Perpétue.

She also pictured primroses,

bidens,

solanum,

marguerites,

cyclamen leaves,

weeping birch bark,

viburnum,

 winter flowering cherry,

and generous pansies sharing their trough with next spring’s burgeoning tete-a-tetes.

Finally she thought her collection would not have been truly seasonal – not that much of it actually is – without

the holly

and the ivy.

The blackbirds have eaten all our berries.

Apart from working on this draft, I wrote out a batch of Christmas cards which Jackie posted later.

By the end of the afternoon, Connor was working on the final corner, which he soon finished.

One of the benefits of not being able to get into your kitchen for three days is that you can eat out in one of your favourite restaurants each day. This evening it was the turn of The Family House Chinese at Totton where we enjoyed our usual M3 set meal with Tsing Tao beer.

Wishing All My Readers Happiness In Their Own Festive Season

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Much of today was spent writing Christmas cards.

It therefore seemed appropriate to present this selection from my archives,

from which readers can choose their own with my best wishes. In order of appearance, the three Christmas cards were designed by me aged 16, 17, and 18. They represent the three kings, the shepherds, and Mary and Jesus from the Christian Nativity story.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s excellent chilli con carne, savoury rice, and vegetable samosas, with which I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

 

Friday The Thirteenth

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Why would I go out to photograph a churchyard on such a dull day as was this one?

All will become clear later in the post.

Gravestones 1Gravestones 2

Here are some of the gravestones in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin, Bransgore;

Gravestone with anchor chain

many ivy clad, like this one bearing an anchor chain,

Gravestone, holly

or this already sporting its Christmas holly.

Gravestones, holly

A few are upright,

Gravestone leaning

some less so,

Gravestone in grass 1Gravestone in grass 2Gravestones 3

and others had given up the battle with gravity.

Tree stump and gravestones 1Tree stump and gravestones 2

The stump of a fallen tree was in good company.

Roller

This roller hid round the back of the church.

Door handles

St Mary the Virgin 1

As in most of our churches today, the front door was locked.

St Mary the Virgin 2

Fortunately for me, Jenny was working in the small office accessed by an open side door.

This very friendly person showed me into the church, currently set out for the various community activities offered, that can be found on https://bransgore.org.

Stained glass 1Stained glass 2Stained glass 3Stained glass 4

She put on the lights so that I could photograph the stained glass, much of the original of which has been lost.

Stained glass July 3rd 1922

In particular, climbing on a chair to do so, Jenny was keen to show me the preserved panel from July 3rd, 1822, bearing the etched date in the bottom left hand corner. To the left of the bottom of the orange cross the name of R. Carter, glazier, Priory Glassworks can be discerned when the image is enlarged.

Wikipedia tells us that ‘the church of Saint Mary the Virgin was erected in 1822 as a chapel of ease.[10][11] The church is of brick with stone dressings,[11] with a tower and originally a spire.[12] However, the spire was removed in 1967. The early 16th-century font, which is said to have come from Christchurch, is octagonal, with a monogram J D, perhaps for “John Draper,” the last Prior of Christchurch Priory.[11] The ecclesiastical parish of Bransgore was formed in 1875 from parts of Christchurch and Sopley.[11][13] Henry William Wilberforce, son of William Wilberforce (known for his campaign against slavery), was once the vicar of Saint Mary’s church.’

When we visited MacPenny’s Garden Centre two days ago we were given this brochure:

We would always welcome an opportunity to try out a new curry restaurant. When the proprietor had the courage to open the venture on Friday 13th, this proved irresistible. Jenny explained that the church had the facilities and was there to help local activities.

The evening in the church hall was most convivial, and the food served by the Bartlett family quite superb. Jack was a splendid sommelier who assisted his sister Sophie with the waiting tasks.

From the moment of entry our nostrils were enticed by the authentic aromas emanating from the kitchen on full view of diners. Everything was cooked to order.

Dave’ s cooking was a marvel. We began with superb crisp popadoms with a variety of chutneys. The prawn puris that followed were as good as any we have ever tasted.

Majid, the manager of the Akash in Edgware Road that I regularly frequented for more than 35 years, would remove from the table any onion bhajis that his eyes told him were not up to scratch. He, and I, would have given Dave’s full marks, for their perfect crisp texture and exquisite taste.

Prawn jalfrezi

My main course was prawn jalfrezi, and Jackie’s prawn bhuna. Both were succulent, and superbly flavoured. We shared delicate pilau rice and soft chapatis. Encouraged to bring our own bottles, we brought an Argentinian white wine that I can’t remember. Jack kept it in the fridge for us and kept our glasses replenished. That’s probably why I can’t remember what it was.

 

The Bay Tree

On my way to continue attacking the lonicera and its companions, I made a pleasant discovery. Red rosebudI mentioned yesterday that the clearing of the area around the collapsed arch had revealed a red rose. This is because a pointed red bud provides a finial for the new gothic version. White roseWhat I noticed today is a tiny white rose bloom with quite a number of buds. We have two roses on the arch.

Four hours later I had almost cleared the lonicera from our side of the now virtually non-existent boundary. I followed the familiar process of lopping, uprooting, and tossing into the jungle anything that emanated from the other side. I thinned out our shrubs and tied up a rambling rose. The myrtle required special treatment. The leaves are meant to be variegated but sports have taken over. Taking them all out hasn’t left much vegetation, but the ochre coloured bark is very attractive. A sport is an abnormal result of spontaneous mutation. In this case the leaves were no longer two-toned. Netting fenceAfter lunch I dealt what I hope is the killer blow to the lonicera. It has, of course, rooted all over the place, but I think I found the original thick bunch of stems, sawed through them and smashed out what I could without going to the trouble of digging out the tangled clump. We now have a clearance all the way from the new arch to the patio, so I will wander along every now and again and see off any invaders before they become colonists. We also have a fence of sorts, constructed of various sections of wire netting found around the garden, that I attached to iron posts that once probably held a proper boundary. For artistic merit my handiwork would doubtless score a perfect 0, but it forms a marker for any stray vegetation wandering through.

I made the mistake of asking Jackie to bring me some of the netting. This led her to divert from her own allotted task. Most of the netting came from a tangled heap behind a makeshift wooden screen near the side entrance to the house. She thought she would rather like to clear that space and make herself a den. This gave me the job of heavily pruning a holly and a bay tree that had got rather out of hand.. As I did this and smelt the wonderful scent of that culinary aromatic, I though of other bay trees I have known. The garden of the Phyllis Holman Richards Adoption Society in West Hill, Putney, possessed a beautiful bay tree, the elegance of which I always admired. In Newark, we had an enormous such tree, as high as the house and surrounded by pretty mature suckers, giving it the appearance of a very large bush. One day in the early 1990s I told Sylvia, the agency’s administrator, about this and asked why theirs was different. She explained that they had cut out all the surrounding growth to give it shape. I went home and did the same.

Jackie got her space, cleared it, and furnished it with further items from the skip pile. Jackie's denDiamond set in pathCentral pathThe shelves had once been in the garage, but I didn’t think they were quite up to scratch for the library. The rubbish heap has once more been somewhat depleted.

My lady’s main task today was to continue the renovation of the main central path through the garden. She did a good job on this, and added a tile with a concrete base she had found behind the screen to a path I had cleared some days ago.

For dinner we enjoyed chicken jalfrezi (recipe) and mushroom rice. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I had some more of the Languedoc.

Over The Fence

Virginia creeper cornerKnackered at the end of the day yesterday, I chose to ignore one encroachment of foliage onto the path. This hinged upon a Virginia creeper no longer adequately supported by a partially collapsed wooden arch. It was beset by one of our own expansive trees and rambling bramble. I knew, however, if I ventured into the undergrowth, I would find that what was pushing everything forward would be the invasive jungle from next door. I wasn’t up for that. Until I got up this morning.

First of all I had a wander round the garden trying to put off the beckoning task..PhiladelphusThalictrum aquilegifolieumPampas grass The philadelphus is doing well, and a thalictrum aquilegifoleum now blooms alongside a pampas grass that echoes the unidentified evergreen I photographed yesterday.

Until they are given a permanent location, the plants recovered from Shelly and Ron’s are deposited in various spots in the garden. Diasca and gernaniumsThese geraniums and diasca flank the bench:

That’s enough prevarication.

Holly, brambles, ivy and Lonicera were all seeking new accommodation on the other side of their ramshackle fence. One ivy entwined around our unidentified tree had a stem a good inch and more in diameter. Everything in our shrubbery fled in the path of the invading army.

I set to with the loppers, and when I eventually reached what was left of the fence and trimmed enough to look over it, this is what confronted me:Garden next door

I had no choice but to pursue the lonicera along the boundary until I met the rest of it by the reclaimed patio shrubbery. No doubt had I continued in the other direction there would have been more.

All this makes me rather relieved that the garden on the other side is all laid to gravel.

This afternoon Helen came for a visit. This meant I had the perfect excuse to come inside and chat, and to leave the task unfinished. Wire netting pushed inwardsBefore that,Shrubbery clearance I had reached a section of wire netting that our home’s previous owner had attached to the iron posts that seemingly were once supporting a fence. This had been shoved forward by the neighbour’s lonicera. I have begun to fix it back, although must remove more of the invader before I can make it taut. The cleared space shown is part of what I have hacked out.

Jackie produced a chicken jalfrezi (recipe) as marvellous as ever for our dinner this evening. We enjoyed it with boiled rice, vegetable samosas, and Cobra beer.

An Unexpected Portrait

Yesterday, by a narrow margin, Ireland won their rugby match against France. This was an excellent contest, and secured the championship for the victors. It went down very well in the Irish evening in support of CAFOD, which we attended with Helen and Bill, Shelly and Ron.

Catholic Aid For Overseas Development is an official agency representing England and Wales. It exists to help third world countries to become self-sufficient in feeding themselves.

Hopefully the evening made a reasonable contribution to the cause. It was certainly enjoyed by people of all ages. Lynden and Clive provided an excellent calling service for the barn dancing which was enjoyed by three-year-olds and those a good seventy years older. The star of the show was Titus, probably the youngest, who was adopted as her partner by the caller, and kept going until the evening ended at 10 p.m.

We were greeted by Helen and her colleagues ladling out steaming platefuls of tender and tasty Irish stew with wedges of fresh, crusty, bread. No encouragement was needed for some of us to emulate Oliver Twist and present our plates for a second helping.  A gentleman in a fluorescent emerald green jacket managed the temporary bar and later presented the questions for the quiz that Helen had compiled. It was a shame Helen had produced the puzzles because that meant that our team were deprived of the input of Bill who would most certainly have lifted our table from its final sixth place.

Children placed a prompt card on each table, for a group performance of ‘Green Grow The Rushes O’. This is a traditional song involving each group at the appropriate intervals to repeat the refrain on their card. Our ensemble were rather chuffed to earn applause for our harmonising.

After the raffle, in which Bill won a Nivea product, we drove him home, leaving Helen, who had not stopped working all evening, to coordinate the clearing up.

This morning I wandered a wide loop around the forest opposite the end of Lower Drive, emerging at Suters Cottage and returning via London Minstead. This was the area I had explored in the mist of 21st January.

I have often wondered how it is that people can come into such a beautiful region and chuck rubbish out of their cars onto the forest verges.Budweiser bottles Today’s detritus included spent Budweiser bottles.Shadows on forest groundFallen tree shadows

Shadows on wooded slopeShadows crisscrossingSun through treesSunstar through tree - image of young womanThe forest looked so different today. Cast by the bright late morning sun shining through the trees, long shadows streamed across the shattered trunks and leaf-strewn terrain.

Sun stars were created throughout the area, none more dramatic than that providing a picture light for what appeared to be the portrait of a young woman etched on a trunk.

Holly regenerating

A blighted holly demonstrated nature’s powers of regeneration.

Forestry Commision gate

Several deer, as elusive as the ubiquitous brimstones that never seem to settle, streaked across the path beyond a Forestry Commission gate. Forest scapeI swear there were two of the butterflies in this forest scape when I pressed the shutter button.

Minstead Lodge

Minstead Lodge, not yet obscured by leaves, can still be seen in its lofty position above the road.

Orange tree and pony

The deciduous trees are beginning to come into leaf. Some of these take on a bright orange hue lending them a glow borrowed from the russet ponies,

When we first moved into our current home, the walls of the flat were occupied by the owner’s pictures. Carefully labelled by Jackie, we packed these up,stored them in a cupboard for access to which we needed a step-ladder, and replaced them with our own. This afternoon we reversed the process.

This evening Elizabeth and Danni joined us and my niece drove us all to Ringwood’s Curry Garden where we enjoyed the usual high standard meal with friendly and efficient service. The restaurant was very full.

Now You See Them……..

Oaks in mist

On this cold but crisp morning, the sun only managed to penetrate the mist at midday, by which time I was home. Gone were the delicately tinted skies of yesterday, but by the time we were lunching on Jackie’s sublime chicken broth, fluffy white clouds adorned a clear blue sky.

I walked directly through the forest from Upper Drive, turning right when I reached the road through London Minstead, and back up Running Hill.

Fallen tree

Shattered treeFallen beech boughThere was not much point in trying to reuse the paths I had discovered last summer, because there were many freshly fallen trees, or their recently amputated limbs. Consequently,as I sought new ones, I often had to extricate myself from the evergreen holly branches, which seem to have proliferated.

Forest mistStump in mistAs usual I followed pony tracks. Especially on the steep downhill slopes, when I had no skis, I found that the animals were surer footed than I. There was often a definite possibility that I would lose a Wellington boot to the suction of the mud.

The forest was silent, except for the squelching and crunching of my boots, the snapping of twigs, and the steady pit pat of moisture dripping from the trees. Mossy branchesFungus on rotten branchThe general dampness of the season had produced emerald green moss and golden orange fungus with incredible richness of colour.

Tree leaningHoles through trunkA tall beech tree had holes bored right through its trunk. It seemed to be surviving. Others, seemingly supported by their neighbours, lurched at alarming angles.

As I emerged from the forest and walked through London Minstead, I was aware of different sounds. The cackling of geese and hens, a cock crowing, a wood pigeon crying out for a mate, rooks cawing, and smaller birds chirruping. Boughs in MistUntil I reached the bottom of Running Hill I had seen nor heard no sign of human life. Then, a sound I recognised from last year, followed by fog lamps glowing in the distance, emanated from Jeremy’s hoover which he could only just squeeze through the railings by the stream opposite Hungerford Cottage. As friendly as ever, the man charged with clearing up the pony droppings, was only too pleased to turn off his engine, wind down his window, and have a chat.

In fact Jeremy was almost the only living creature I encountered this morning. But not quite. Through a gap in the holly bushes ahead of me in the forest I had seen the shadowy movement of possibly three deer. They are probably accustomed to the sight of my camera now, for they seem to enjoy a game of catch us if you can, as they prance fleetingly from view. Forest without the deerThis last picture had them in it when I pressed the shutter. I swear it did.

Helen's shortbreadWe had a brief, entertaining, visit from Jackie’s sister Helen, and niece Rachel early this afternoon. Rachel brought Jackie’s Christmas present and Helen brought some coffee and vanilla shortbread biscuits she had made. Artistic culinary expertise runs in the family.

This evening we dined at Totton’s very friendly Family House Chinese restaurant. The M3 set meal, which we chose, begins with plentiful starters of prawn toast, seaweed, and chunky lean spare ribs; shredded duck is then served with the usual additions, except that there are more pancakes than we are accustomed to; mixed vegetables, chicken and black bean sauce, shredded beef, and special fried rice share the top billing. That is quite enough for two. We both drank T’Sing Tao beer. We were the only diners, although the takeaway trade was, as we have noticed in more than one local restaurant, thriving.