Who’s The Daddy?

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As soon as the shops were open this morning we set off on a slipper hunt for my hospital stay. We found a pair immediately at Stephan Shoes in New Milton. We then travelled to the Community Centre in Milford on Sea, where I might have left my blog card case the other day. There was no-one in the office. Next port of call was Peacock’s Computers who had not yet received a dongle they had ordered for my MacBook. I was also unable to send e-mails and left the machine for James to solve the problem.

Ah, well, I had bought the slippers, and James did solve the problem later.

Whilst I was occupied with the computer Jackie waited for me in the car park behind the High Street. I walked the long way round: past the war memorial and through the graveyard of the parish church of St Thomas the Apostle. Pigeons and other birds occasionally perched on the gravestones, and candelabra lit the chestnut trees.

We then took a drive through the forest. Sun-dappled lanes through which we traversed included Barnes; Undershore, where we happily negotiated motor cars and cyclists; and Shirley Holms alongside which field horses enhanced the terraced landscape.

The more open stretches of Shirley Holms were alive with grazing ponies. I focussed on a family group. The smallest foal clung steadfastly to its chestnut mother. A larger, very similar, junior wandered a little further afield from his white (grey) parent. It seemed to me that the grey coloured adult more attached to these last two was probably a stallion, suggesting that there was no need to ask “who’s the daddy?”. A woman on horseback approached us from further down the slope.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb pasta arrabbiata with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Malbec.

 

The Spanish Invasion


Strong winds and heavy rain rampaged through the morning, keeping me occupied with administration and ironing, while Jackie did the shopping.

Just two of the administrative events are worthy of note. It is rather more complicated than I would have thought to close a French bank account which is in credit with no unpaid cheques outstanding. This has been exacerbated by what turned out to be a standard letter contradicting what I had been advised on the telephone. Phone calls and letters have been involved. I was advised to ignore the latest letter. I should be receiving a statement and a transfer of funds soon. We’ll see.

A further telephone call related to the setting up of a funeral plan. Well, you never know.

Soon after lunch the rain ceased and an assertive sun shouldered the dismal clouds aside, sending us off in search of bluebells.

Opposite the shadowy woodland of Shirley Holms

Doves on roof

Jackie spotted a pair of white doves on a farmhouse roof.

Bluebells and hellebores

In 1588 the Spanish Armada failed in their attempt to conquer England. A peaceful invasion is, however under way in the form of their national bluebells. These in our garden are bigger, stronger, and lighter in colour than

the English ones that still line the hedgerows and stock the woodlands of Boldre and other parts of the forest.

Muddy tracks have been left by the recent rain, but it is now warm enough for horses in fields to discard their rugs.

As we drove through East End the leader of a trio of three cows fixed our Modus with a stare and bellowed instructions to get out of the way.

An egret occupied the beach at Tanners Lane against the backdrop of rape fields on the Isle of Wight.

This evening we dined at The Royal Oak. Jackie enjoyed an excellent beef burger in sourdough bread with French fries and salad. My equally good meal was superbly cooked haddock, chips and peas. My heap of chunky chips with skins was extremely daunting and Jackie couldn’t finish her fries. She drank Amstell and I drank Malbec.

 

“It’s Their Road, Not Mine”

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Eucalyptus shadow

We enjoyed another splendidly sunny summer’s day. In the garden the eucalyptus cast its welcome shadow across the grass;

while tulips, daffodils, wallflowers, and cowslips glowed in the sunshine.

At lunchtime I received a date for my first knee replacement. It is 18th May. I have never heard of anything so fast. This afternoon I undertook the blood test for the hip replacement check. Jackie having driven me to Lymington Hospital for the latter, we continued into the forest.

The primrose bank alongside the stream in Royden Lane was also streaked with shadows. A pair of cyclists happily rode by at an opportune moment.

Horses in field

I imagine the hay heaped in the field opposite was essential food for the horses a week or so ago. Now the grass is coming through again.

This land may have dried out now, but parts of the forest, like this area outside Brockenhurst, were still waterlogged. Instead of shadows we were treated to reflections of trees, some of which had fallen. After such wet periods as the terrain has recently endured, there are always more fallen trees. Often the roots rot and the giants topple.

Two ponies, dozing under a railway arch may, perhaps, two or three weeks ago have used this shelter as an umbrella; today it was a parasol. A pair of cyclists skirted the animals in order not to disturb them. “It’s their road, not mine”, said the leading woman.

Orange berberis flamed in the hedgerows outside Exbury Gardens, while white wood anemones, yellow celandines, and little violets festooned the banks of a dry ditch opposite.

This evening we dined at The Royal Oak. Jackie enjoyed a huge portion of chicken tandoori, while I tucked into an excellent rib eye steak cooked exactly as I asked. Jackie’s drink was Amstell, mine was a rather good Argentinian Malbec.

 

 

Creating A Splash

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Today was another wet one. The New Forest is so waterlogged as to promote empathy for those unfortunates who chose to come here for the Easter holidays.

Lymington Plant Centre has clearly seen better days. Perhaps the daffodils that line Pitmore Road outside it had once come from stock.

Roads and paths were reduced to watercourses; bedraggled horses churned up mud to droop at their hay troughs; cattle grids overflowed.

Armstrong Lane in Brockenhurst was just one flooded thoroughfare.  Trees were reflected in the normally dry terrain on the other side of Burley Road.

Their mirrors joined up with the River Weir and another stream to swell the fast flowing water across the ford.

Jackie took one look at two boys cycling through the torrent  and decided to turn the Modus around and find another route.

She waited whilst I photographed other ambitious drivers,

then drove on the the aptly named Waters Green over which a raucus jackdaw chorus performed for the benefit of soggy ponies, one of whom still sported its curlers.

A fine looking chestnut was occupied clipping a hedge.

This evening we dined once more on Jackie’s splendid lamb biriani with black lentil dhal. I consumed more of the 16 Little Black Pigs.

The Weather

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Early this morning we attended to bits of my body.

First, Jackie drove us to the GP surgery in Milford on Sea where I set in motion a long overdue referral for an orthopaedic assessment of my knees, and learned that I am on a list for a cataract adjustment to my left eye. I should be fully bionic soon. Next was a visit to our dental hygienist for a routine treatment.

We then returned to Hockey’s Farm Shop for a box of eggs we had left on the table yesterday.

Today the weather was decidedly soggy with occasional rain. Just one pony appeared to have ventured out. As it struggled to find nourishment along the verges of Holmsley Road it must have regretted the lack of

one of the rugs its more pampered field residents were still wore. They didn’t all even have to find their own food.

These latter animals were kept at South Gorley, so let us here return to Holmsley Road, the forest floors on either side of which are now full of temporary pools covering the terrain and reflecting branches, trunks, and mossy roots.

Crossing the A35 we come to Holmsley Passage, bordered with its own pools of precipitation and wind-blasted branches.

A woman with a dog strode down the hill and across the swollen ford just in time to enhance my photographs.

At Gorley Lynch, light rain seeped from silver-grey skies, supplementing ditchwater flowing across the crumbling road, and brightening moss on the thatch of the house alongside the farm café. This was in stark contrast to the cerulean canvas that had covered the building the day before. Note the mistletoe in the tree. There is much of it about the forest.

This evening we dined on Hockey’s Farm hot and spicy pickled onions accompanying Mr Pink’s fish and chips, and pineapple fritters in Lyle’s golden syrup. I drank Don Lotario gran reserva Navarra 2009.

The More Hardy

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After a night of heavy rain of which, I am happy to say, I was oblivious, Jackie drove us around the lanes of Sway and Tiptoe.

Wild golden daffodils and pale yellow primroses proliferate on the verges and the banks of ditches.

When I disembarked to photograph some of these in Flexford Lane, a whinny from the field beyond them, and the thud of hoofs alerted me to the arrival of a hopeful horse which was brought to a reluctant standstill at an inner fence. Like most of the more domesticated animals this one still wore a rug to protect it from the cold, especially as the temperature drops to around freezing overnight.

The recent snow and ice has increased the number of potholes and crumbling edges of the tarmac. Many of the lanes are awash with water, some of which runs off the fields. It is the job of the ditches to absorb this, but their capacity is not always sufficient to contain it all. Barrows Lane was particularly damaged. Imagine driving along there in the dark without a depth gauge. The traffic cones are a necessary warning.

Field-kept horses are far more inquisitive than the more nonchalant New Forest ponies. One be-rugged example, as eager as its cousin in Flexford Lane, rushed silently over to the five-barred gate before I had been able to photograph it in the process of grazing. The creature had competition from its smaller, bridled, companion.

Both fixed me with a persuasive, pleading, gaze until the larger animal tossed its head in disgust. I wonder whether the smaller creature could be a forest pony in the process of being backed, which is the term for breaking in for riders. This might make sense of both the bridle, the application of which it would resist, and the lack of a rug. New Forest ponies are definitely the more hardy.

This evening we dined on a plentiful second helping of Hordle Chinese Take Away set meal for two with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Azinhaga Portuguese red.

A Bottle Of Rum

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Today I scanned another batch of negatives from the long walk of July 2003. I have managed to become slightly out of sequence, but who cares? I never had much idea of where I was, anyway.

The first few were images from the early stages of the row, as Sam, with James’s guidance, left Henley and enjoyed the width of the River Thames, as he approached Sandford Lock.

James rowing

Once through, James took the oars,

Girl in punt

and we soon passed a young lady in a punt considering modelling for Ophelia.

Cattle and horses, with their foal, drank from the river,

while a red-legged partridge took her chicks for an airing. Can you spot two in the second picture?

Sam and James in Pacific Pete 7.03

Fast forward to Napton where, with far less oar-space, the lads were making their way through the moored narrowboats.

Don, Sam and friends

It was quite likely The King’s Head where we enjoyed a meal and a drink with friends we had found. I was not to know it at the time, but, Don in the front of the image, had given Sam a bottle of rum with instructions not to open it until he had won the Atlantic race. Fortunately he was victorious, and, as a thank you for my support, was to start on it with me.

Just beyond that location is the 250 metres long Newbold Tunnel. As we didn’t have a horse, a couple with a narrowboat offered to tow Pacific Pete through it. Here are the preparations taking place.

Bridge underside 7.03

This underside of a bridge may or may not be part of the tunnel, but it would be similar.

Goodness knows how I reached the other side, but the standard of towpath was all downhill from here. However, I did, and was able to photograph grasses, burdock, and convolvulus clogging up the potholed paths.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s splendid turkey fillets jalfrezi, perfectly aromatic and colourful pilau rice, and small vegetable samosas. The culinary Queen drank more of the Coquimbo and I finished the Shiraz.