Fly Masks

I didn’t think I could face the tension of listening to ball by ball broadcasting of the last day of the first Ashes Test match of 2019, so I suggested a trip out this morning and deferring cricket gratification until this evening’s highlights.

Before leaving, Jackie photographed raindrops on spider’s webs and our porch planting. These will repay bigification.

Consequently we drove to Hockey’s Farm shop hunting for suitable teapots to offer Nugget for his habitation. As Jackie pointed out, we had forgotten to ask our robin “whether he preferred new-build or something with more character.” Hockey’s had a few characterful examples but they carried typical loading of prices for a New Forest residence. Since the lids would be discarded this seemed a bit steep.

Heather and bracken along Holmsley Passage had brightened after receipt of the recent rain. While I photographed the moorland Jackie was careful to point out the heather’s healthy range of hues.

On leaving Burley we were surprised to notice that a grey pony, waiting patiently on the verge seemed to have induced a low crawl in the traffic. It was not until we drew level that we spotted its companion standing bang in the middle of the road between the two streams of cars.

As we proceeded along Crow Hill the startling eyes of an extraterrestrial landing craft sent Jackie hugging the hedgerows on the left side of the road. It was with some relief that we realised this was a large tractor slowly towing a very long hay bale container.

In the vicinity of Linwood we took a diversion along our favourite unnamed lane. This is in effect a cul-de-sac,

along which there are some interesting houses and gardens;

and, as today, we are likely to encounter equestriennes.

Heavy field horses wear full fly masks, protecting eyes and ears. One, more inquisitive than the other which couldn’t really be bothered, gave us a sun-kissed smile as we paused to demonstrate interest.

Several thirsty ponies and a foal, paddling in the forded stream at Ibsley, left the water to a grey as they settled on the opposite bank.

Before we brunched at Hockey’s I photographed their adult and juvenile alpacas and an elegant pair of geese.

To no avail we tried charity shops in Milford on Sea for the teapots. Jackie then left me at home while she tried similar outlets with more success. Nugget will have a choice between one plain and simple new-build and another masquerading as a watering can. I will feature the finished articles after they have been hung.


I watched the cricket highlights as planned.

After this we dined on Jackie’s delicious chicken jalfrezi; toothsome mushroom rice topped with a tasty omelette; and a plain paratha. The Culinary Queen drank Blue Moon while I finished the Saint-Chinian and started another – this time Clostre Brunel, also 2016.

The Path To Deadman Hill

The day before yesterday I finished reading

being the final novel in the trilogy of the Larkin family, first featured in “Freak Of Fate” in which I described the first book; how I came by it; and the amazing coincidence of the address on the flyleaf, also borne by this Book Club edition published by Michael Joseph in 1960.

In his now familiar rollicking style the author continues to relate the cheerfully energetic romp through life of Pop Larkin, his friends and family. I have now realised that one of the chief pleasures of these stories is the ease with which Bates weaves beautiful bucolic descriptions into his innocently scandalous narrative. For the Larkins, life really is “perfickly” beautiful. Maybe, only 15 years after the ending of the Second World War, that is what the world needed.

This morning we visited Bill and Helen to exchange birthday presents.

We diverted to Abbotswell, near Frogham, on our way home, then decided to lunch at The Fighting Cocks at Godshill.

In the deeply pockmarked gravelled car park at the top of Abbotswell hill a couple of riders were persuading two splendid, reluctant, black horses into their trailered transport which, with their weight, seemed certain to increase the potholes.

I took a short walk among the undulating woodlands overlooking the sloping landscape below.

As always in such terrain it was necessary to tread gingerly over tree roots.

Bees swarmed among wild blackberry blossoms.

Cattle and ponies congregated in the valley below.

A lone cyclist sped along a footpath

and re-emerged on the path to Deadman Hill on the other side of Roger Penny Way. To think that just four years ago I would take that walk without thinking about it.

My lunch at the pub consisted of steak and ale pie, chips, and peas; Jackie’s was mushroom stroganoff with which she drank Hop House lager. My drink was Ringwood’s Best.

Long haired miniature ponies groped their way across the greens beside Cadnam Lane where

an enterprising hairdresser had given a bug-eyed tree stump an impressive Mohican.

The Head Gardener has a little friend in the form of a juvenile robin that follows her around during the day and has taken to joining us on the patio for a drink in the evening. Jackie, on this occasion, drank Hoegaarden, I drank sparkling water, and Robin drank water from a flower pot saucer.

After this, Jackie and I dined on pepperoni pizza and salad; Robin probably finished off what was clinging to his beak.

Ice Cream Or Cream Tea?

Today we enjoyed lunch at Woodpeckers with Mum, Elizabeth, Danni and Ella.

Three of us chose roast chicken with all the trimmings; Elizabeth went for nut roast;

and some of her parents’ liquidised spaghetti bolognese found its way into Ella’s mouth. Danni’s delightful photograph demonstrates that her daughter still has to learn to feed herself while the infant’s great grandmother continues to manage the task. The four youngest adults chose pineapple and almond sponge with ice cream for dessert. Mum settled for the ice cream.

After the meal Jackie had a squeeze;

then G-Ma Elizabeth held Ella while Great G-Ma played ball with her.

I was pleased that Danni e-mailed the photographs.

Later, Jackie and I drove to Annie’s in Barton on Sea to drop in a print of a photograph I had taken of her with Frances a couple of years ago. We travelled on to Waterstones in Lymington to collect a book, and I took the opportunity to photograph some street scenes.

There was much evidence of mobile phones being implemented for conversations of which

others took place in person.

Shoppers passed up and down the street;

some had difficulty crossing the road in charge of a buggy;

one young woman appeared to be contemplating that she may have made the wrong choice between ice cream and a cream tea.

On a lane leading to Church Lane, Boldre raiding group ahead of us – in particular one young lady on a very frisky animal – were demonstrating excellent control of their horses. They pulled over to allow us to pass and I waited on Church Lane to take these shots.

Once more they paused to allow us to pass, and we stopped for me to photograph cattle, a horse, and a red plastic trug in a field of ragwort.

They soon caught up with us and I felt the need to claim that I wasn’t stalking them.

Even the normally full flowing stream beneath the road bridge seen above is looking rather shallow.

This evening we dined on scrambled egg on toast with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Malbec.

Finding Its Feet

Lidl and Aldi are gaining ground in the war to control England’s Supermarket custom. Their quality is very good and their prices very low. There is no finesse in their layout of goods, and there is no guarantee that an item on sale in the central aisles will be in stock the next day. General groceries are usually in regular supply.

This morning, on a regular shopping trip to Lidl, Jackie bought me a linen/cotton blend shirt for £7.99. She would have bought another had she been certain that XXL would fit. It did. This afternoon we returned for another. She left me in the car and entered the store to investigate. The stock had been replenished.

She returned with five more. As she was about to drive off she casually mentioned that there was a linen jacket she hadn’t bought because I would have had to try it on. I took the hint and left her in the car so I could attempt the purchase.

By this time the jackets were strewn all over the racks. None were in their boxes because they had all been tried on.

My rummage revealed that there was just one that fitted me. I bought it Jackie asked how much it had cost. “£19.99″was my reply. “Crikey, that’s very nearly twenty quid,” was her response.

We continued into the forest where, at Frogham, we encountered more baby donkeys.

One was quite elegantly sedate.

The other was far more wobbly. As it slid along the back of the Modus it slipped and fell under the side of the car. Jackie turned on the ignition and I called out to her not to move. She turned the engine off and our little friend extricated itself, rolled over, and commenced clattering backwards and forwards along the tarmac, narrowly missing my sandalled feet. It was certainly finding its own.

It then sandwiched itself between another vehicle and a walking couple who eventually continued their trip along the road. The local woman expressed the view that this creature had probably been born today or yesterday.

From the high point of Abbotswell we looked down on ponies, foals, and cattle basking in the sunshine;

field horses did the same thing beside Blissford Road;

and, nearer home, ponies were silhouetted on Birchy Hill.

This evening we dined on creamy, tangy lasagna with plentiful fresh salad. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Squinzano.

Cow Parsley

We began the day with a trip to Ferndene Farm Shop in order to buy compost, cake for this afternoon’s visitors – oh, and trays of trailing lobelia and petunias.

This led to a drive in the forest.

From Forest Road

we crossed into Braggers Lane

alongside which cotton clouds scudded over the landscape.

Thatchers Lane was next. There I noticed several saddles mounted on paddock rails. Aiming to photograph the scene I quickly changed my mind. It did not seem appropriate to advance with a camera when a woman, receiving ministrations from a pair of companions, one utilising a mobile phone, lay on the ground. Instead, I asked if we could be of any assistance. We couldn’t. Help was at hand. The lady had just been “bumped by a horse”.

I settled for images of calmer creatures cropping the field behind.

The Head Gardener is rather partial to cow parsley flavouring sections of our garden. This is not a taste I share, because I fear the kind of takeover our hedgerows are currently experiencing. They do, however, attract bees. I am no doubt influenced by the fact that Jessica, years ago in Newark, scattered seed from local fields around our orchard. It took several years to eradicate the thug.

Margery, Paul, and Jutta visited this afternoon when we spent a very pleasant time in convivial conversation, with our guests suitably admiring the garden.

This evening we enjoyed a second sitting of Mr Chan’s Chinese Take Away, consisting of splendid spring rolls; special rice; special noodles; chicken in black bean sauce; crispy beef; and king prawns and ginger. I finished the Fleurie and Jackie drank Hoegaarden.

Close Encounter Of The Canine Kind

Despite the bright sunny morning there was a distinct chill in the air as we set off for a drive into the forest.

Field horses at South Sway Lane, in view of Sway Tower, demonstrated contradictory protective needs now that flies are beginning to appear in the daytime, yet the nights remain cold. The bay wears a rug whereas the other two sport masks to protect eyes and ears from winged irritants.

Recumbent forest ponies sprawled over the moorland outside Brockenhurst; a mare stood guard over her recently born foal. I thought it politic not to come too close.

Long-horned cattle lounged on the other side of the road.

From the Boundway Car Park I walked down a gentle slope to photograph

the distant landscape.

As I returned to the car I stood aside for a young lady and her frisky dog to have free passage and to keep my knees out of their way. I was a little nonplussed when the owner cried “keep off, Derek”. Derek turned out to be the name of the six month old canine kick boxer who launched himself at me, muddy paws to the fore. You may be surprised at the impact such a creature can have.

I was. I was even more surprised that I stood firm and did not end up on the ground. That way it was only

the front of my trousers that would need washing.

Soon after this encounter we drove through Rhinefield Ornamental Drive where long shadows crisscrossed the forest floor with its carpet of fir cones; and this year’s ferns rose from the mulch of last year’s natural compost.

This evening we dined at Lal Quilla where we were treated as well as ever with friendly service and excellent food. Jackie’s choice of main meal was prawn sally; mine was king prawn vindaloo. We shared special fried rice and an egg paratha and both drank Kingfisher.

A Blue Rinse

Welcome rain, sometimes quite heavy, fell all morning. We had to stay in anyway, because Stephen Ford came to fix the flushing system to our downstairs loo. He was prompt, efficient, and friendly. We would happily use him again.

This afternoon we posted photographic prints to my blogging friend,

then headed for the lanes around Boldre where we knew there would be bluebells, mingling with stitchwort, lining the verges and applying a blue rinse to the woodland rugs.

Bees flitted from bloom to bloom.

Field horses occupied adjacent fields.

One paused his grazing as a scavenging crow approached.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s perfect pork paprika with plenty of cayenne pepper; boiled potatoes, and mange touts. I drank El Zumbido Garnacha Syrah 2017, another excellent bottle from the case Ian gave me for Christmas.