Autumn In Winter

On a digit-tingling icy cold morning, where the surface of every water container reflected bright sunshine

I took a brief walk around the garden where the seed heads of cordyline Australis accompanied new buds of rhododendrons;

resilient ornamental grasses vied with spent hydrangeas;

columns of shadows including those of a stout rose stem on the orange shed door and a string of small watering cans against the kitchen wall decorated flat areas.

Lichen lingered on sculptures of Summer and Autumn somewhat out of season.

This evening we all dined on spicy piri-piri chicken and Jackie’s savoury rice with which she finished the sauvignon blanc and I finished the cabernet carménère.

A Roll In The Leaves

On another sunny, bright, and cold day a brisk morning foray into a garden somewhat

iced up, as on the surface of this water-filled trug,

revealed our model pig celebrating his escape from crushing by the recently fallen tree by casting his shadows across the patio paving.

On the rooftop, the jackdaws are vociferously laying their customary claim to nesting rights in the disused chimney pots.

This afternoon we took a forest drive to Bisterne Close and back.

The decorated post box in Wootton Road now celebrates New Year.

The water-filled woodland as we turn into the close reflected the low sun peering through the trees.

The woodland floor is now dry enough to crackle the leaves, yet still fresh enough for mossy roots.

Ponies wandered freely;

one enjoyed a roll in the leaves, rising in the usually ungainly fashion and wandering off, oblivious of the coat of leaves it now wore.

I spotted Jackie photographing the woodland some distance off and only later realised that she was intrigued by wondering how this hollowed trunk could remain standing.

More sunlight reflections bounced from the icy surface of the close’s seasonal pool.

This evening we all dined on Jackie’s tasty beef pie; boiled new potatoes; crunchy carrots; firm cauliflower and broccoli, and thick, meaty, gravy with which the Culinary Queen finished the Spanish rosado and I drank Carménère Reserva Privada 2022

Investigation By Spiders

After lunch, tempted into the garden by the sunshine, still keeping ice

in containers like this pot saucer, fingers tingling, I took a brief walk around with my camera.

Many of the camellias were either in bloom or bud,

while the Japanese anemones bore seed pods apparently investigated by spiders.

Backlit cordyline Australis bore drips of precipitation.

The Gazebo bore the clematis Cirrhosa “Freckles”.

The dead stumps along the Back Drive and sculpture Florence were picked up in sidelight.

Later, I dozed through the first two episodes of Lucy Worsley’s Russian Romanovs.

This evening we all dined on tempura, and hot and spicy, prawns; tempura vegetables and spring rolls on Jackie’s colourful vegetable rice, with which I drank more of the shiraz and the Culinary Queen drank Mezquiriz Rosado 2023

In Need Of Milking

Martin’s cementing material was frozen in the bags this morning which he consequently spent

cutting out the shapes he would not be able to firmly set in place until Sunday.

Note the ice chips on the covered paving.

Ellie, who has now mastered the art of hand to mouth coordination,

was mesmerised by the open fire.

Martin told me that the roadsides were festooned with icicles formed by the showers of spray thrown up by vehicles during Monday’s deluge. Jackie and I therefore took a trip to investigate.

Some years ago now, a teenage girl was killed in a car crash along Hordle Lane.

Some soft toys still linger in the trees in her memory. One had fallen among the icicles by the roadside.

Further icicles and ice patterns decorated the corner of Woodcock Lane and Silver Street

along which these wintry decorations dangled from trees, draped verges along which they were reflected in the gutters, and rose from grasses on stumps.

We drove along Bashley Cross Road to Ferndene Farm shop to buy some eggs. A fallen branch bore dripping icicles.

Sway Road hosted various ice sculptures reflected in the gutters,

some dripping from a fence post like the udders of a cow in need of milking.

Further along this road autumn red-gold merged with winter’s snow-white.

This evening we dined on bangers and mash; fried bacon, tomatoes and mushrooms; boiled carrots, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Coonawarra Shiraz 2020.

Are You Skating On Thin Ice?

Ronan from Tom Sutton Heating visited today. He confirmed that we had taken all reasonable steps to reactivate our boiler, but that the capacitor needed replacing. He had ordered the part, which would not be delivered until Monday. He will fit it that evening

Ian, as already arranged, came to collect Flo, Dillon, and Ellie for a weekend at Southbourne. We will make use of their heater while they are away.

Now, on a bright, sunny, day with temperatures never rising above freezing where is the warmest place available to us? You have guessed it. The Modus.

We spent the early part of the afternoon unsuccessfully attempting to resuscitate the immersion heater, then took a ride in the car.

We needed to go no further than the largely icebound Hatchet Pond

where we stayed until just before the early sunset.

The pair of swans and their cygnets stayed on the edge of the lake.

Despite the sign set up by the Forestry Commission “Are you skating on thin ice?”, and the news of the deaths of four boys in Solihull succumbing to cardiac arrests from the shock of falling into icy water a few days ago,

one man, joined by a walker and a dog, skated up and down the Hatchet Moor section of the pond,

while a young family played on the shallows of the main body of water,

and a group of teenagers walked across it. Had the youngsters been here in the summer they would have been warned of the lethal currents in the depths of this pond.

A woman who remonstrated to no avail with the parents of the family, explained to us that her son was a fireman who had often been one who pulled dead bodies out of the water.

This evening we dined on the last of the left-overs. Jackie’s choice was the beef and the Bolognese, mine the curry.

Frozen Stone

It has been our coldest night of the year. Our boiler is still not working, and the next service appointment has been deferred until 19th January. I made a further call today and secured a visit for tomorrow morning.

We have a couple of plug in radiators and a fan heater. Strategically distributed, and with extra layers of clothing, they will have to do.

As shown by these leaves embedded in the ice of a frozen fountain, when Martin began working today the temperature outside was -6C.

He uses the stone he attempted to pick up to provide a slope for his wheelbarrow regularly transported to and from the stacks of material on the back drive. This was frozen to the ground.

A fulcrum was required in order for him to prise it loose.

The aggregate providing the next level was wheeled in the barrow

and tipped out ready for

compacting with a machine designed for the purpose.

Before applying the compactor, the material frozen solid in its bags had to be decompressed with a pickaxe and

being shovelled into the barrow. Martin kept this up all morning.

This evening we dined on Red Chilli’s excellent takeaway fare, each couple on trays in their respective sitting rooms heated by an electric radiator. My main meal was Lamb Dhansak, Jackie’s, Sag Chicken; we shared mushroom rice and a plain paratha.

Santa’s Float

On another cold, albeit slowly brightening, day Jackie and I took a forest drive just after 11 a.m.

Autumn leaves flocking on the still, silent, surface of Pilley’s icy lake will need a thaw before they begin their slow, rocking descent to the bed beneath.

Sage green lichen clung to branches

and decorated damp ivy coated trunks;

lesser limbs became embedded;

spectral skaters scraped converging rimy streaks across the frozen water,

while shaggy Shetland ponies quietly grazed.

The majority of this stubby little herd had rectified their recent absence from Bull Hill

which they now shared with curious cattle.

This bovine fixed me with a customary stare, then turned and

crossed the road. I tried not to take it personally.

Lymington River is tidal and therefore not frozen, and able to ripple and reflect the weak sunshine and Santa’s float.

In an effort to reorganise her fridge and larder, the Culinary Queen produced a varied menu for this evening consisting of left over helpings of my Susan’s chicken, of Shelly’s beef stew, one of her own earlier penne Bolognaise dishes from the freezer. She and I opted for the Bolognese while the others enjoyed some of everything. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon.

A Knight’s Tale (112: “The Best Big Brother Ever”)

At the beginning of 1986 snow lay on the ground for the first three months. This was the last year I remember a decent amount of snow in London. Matthew took his little brother and sister for a sledge ride on allegedly thin ice beside the Waterfowl Sanctuary on Tooting Common.

During that prolonged winter, Sam’s and Louisa’s expressions show quite clearly how cold it was when Matthew, dubbed by Louisa ‘the best big brother ever’, took them out for a buggy ride from Gracedale Road.

Matthew reading to Sam & Louisa

It was clearly much more cosy when he read them a story.

It would have been that summer that Jessica, Sam, and I spent a week in Mary Dewsberry’s holiday home in Haslemere. Last year’s bracken and autumn leaves lingered in the country terrain.

Jessica, Sam and Louisa feeding ponies 1986

This may have been the occasion when we discovered that the two children both had allergies to horses, the touch of which caused their eyes to swell up alarmingly.

Jessica and Louisa 1986
Jessica, Sam, and Louisa 1986

Under the cloak of a little coppice, Louisa made a diving effort to reenter her mother’s womb. Sam insisted that there was room for two.

Louisa, Jack, and Dora 1986 1
Sam, Louisa, Nick, Jack & Dora 1986 2

Mary’s son, Nick, and his children Jack and Dora, welcomed Sam and Louisa into their boat maintenance crew. Louisa made a quick recovery after her early tip-up, and everyone set to with gusto.

Along The Lanes To The West

I cannot be bothered to detail the problem that has developed with my probate application, except to say that I have received an e-mail rejecting my completed form for a reason that doesn’t make sense and asking me to submit a new one. Without sending a duplicate form I replied and received a standard automated response. This will involve a further 8 weeks delay.

Today was dry, dull, and cold. After a Tesco shop this afternoon we took a drive into the lanes to the west of the forest.

Despite the ice remaining in the ruts and puddles along the verges and in the fields,

daffodils bloomed on the green at Neacroft.

Crows seemed to be playing musical chairs from oak to oak and from wire to wire, of which there were a few in evidence along

Bockhampton Lane, where we thought it must be draughty in this

dilapidated building.

The golden glow we noticed on the horizon did not live up to its promise of some sort of sunset.

This evening we dined on more of Jackie’s spicy chilli con carne and rice, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the chianti.

Woodland Denizens

The weather temperature has plummeted. Early this morning Jackie photographed ice on the new water features.

Beginning mid-morning I wasted four hours and my frayed nerve ends wrestling with an on line banking problem arising from a regular heating fuel supplier who had changed their bank details, and a system which could not adequately cope with the change. I will bore neither myself nor my readers by elaborating on this issue.

This afternoon Jackie successfully restored my equilibrium by offering to take me for a forest drive, with the proviso that she wafted past Ferndene Farm Shop en route. I accepted with the generous suggestion that she could shop there if she so desired. The ensuing shopping was a very smooth operation.

I wandered among the woodland alongside Bisterne Close, photographing isolated ponies; general scenes including fallen branches, gorse, and mossy roots; the serpentine stretched limbs of a giant oak; and the dried autumn leaves I crunched underfoot to create the only sounds in the otherwise silent forest. There was not even any birdsong.

Jackie, meanwhile had pictured some trees, one of which was a holly with pony tooth marks on the trunk, prompting the realisation that all such scores are borne by hollies on which we have noticed these equines’ marks over the winter. She also captured


and a resident squirrel.

While I drafted this post two separate falls of snow streaked, and drifted, past my window. None settled.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s splendid egg fried rice with a rack of spare ribs marinaded in plum sauce. The Culinary Queen drank Peroni and I drank more of the Cotes du Rhone.