Dusk Descending

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Jackie and I visited Mum this afternoon. This was one of her bad days, as she had not slept last night. She perked up whilst we were with her, and is looking forward to seeing Danni and Andy tomorrow.

We headed straight to Mudeford as we left the hospital, and were in time to watch

dusk descending. Apart from a few poor shivering specimens standing forlornly on the car park tarmac, gannet-like gulls swooped, plummeted, pounced to snatch crabbers’ spoils on the quayside. The Isle of Wight was a high-speed train thrusting through turbulent waters. Across at the bay, the streaky setting sun feebly attempted to penetrate deep indigo clouds which eventually scudded off before a palette of pink and cyan.

This evening Jackie fed us on a rack of lamb; roast potatoes and butternut squash; crisp carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts; sautéed peppers, onions, and mushrooms; tasty gravy, and mint sauce. I drank Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, and the others didn’t.

 

A Tattooed Jet-skier

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Yesterday, Jackie, having set a border with transplanted heucheras some weeks ago, thinned out the other plants in the small bed to the left of the rose garden entrance. As Aaron said, this increased the sense of space.

One of Aaron’s tasks this morning was to prune the plants over the arch to the front garden;

another was to fix spikes to the top of the Westbrook Arbour to prevent perching pigeons pooing onto the bench beneath.

Late this morning Jackie drove me out with the intention of photographing the New Forest Marathon. Unfortunately, because of road closures, and my inability to walk far enough along the paths that would lead to the runners, we abandoned the idea and went home to lunch, after which an amble round the garden was possible.

We still have a number of lively clematises, like this Polish Spirit in the Dragon Bed alongside the Shady Path,

and this Hagley Hybrid in the Rose Garden,

where is also to be found glorious Gloriana,

pink-cheeked Mum in a Million,

and Rhapsody in Blue harmonising with verbena bonariensis.

Peach Delight still stretches over the Oval Bed,

where nasturtiums echo rudbeckia,

itself found in the Palm Bed,

also home to helenium

and echinacea.

Bees swarmed blushing sedums

and Japanese anemones;

a wasp sought saxifrage.

Perhaps a spider’s spinning a modest veil for Florence sculpture.

Gauras have proved difficult to grow here. An exception is this one swaying in the Weeping Birch Bed.

This fuchsia curtains Elizabeth’s Bed from the Rose Garden.

In the late afternoon we visited Mudeford Quay which thronged with visitors, Many of whom were enjoying themselves catching crabs, although they snared more seaweed. The secret, which enabled one group to fill buckets with the unfortunate creatures before tossing them back into the water, seemed to be the bacon bait, which, to my mind, would have been better served flavouring a sausage casserole.

Taking advantage of the low tide, one dog walker wandered along the sandbank, passing the Isle of Wight, and retracing his steps.

Just as I was about to leave, a tattooed jet skier sprayed into sight and navigated his way between the port and starboard buoys.

heuchera

Early this evening, Jackie rushed in for the camera, rushed out with it, and returned with a backlit image of the heuchera I had photographed this morning.

This evening the three of us dined on Jackie’s splendid pork paprika; wild rice; crunchy carrots, and our own runner beans, followed by her sublime bread and butter pudding. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden while my sister and I finished the Fleurie.

 

The Beast With Two Backs

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Another pleasantly sunny morning gave way to a more overcast afternoon. Much of my day was spent in boring administrative tasks involving banking, form-filling, posting letters, sorting out a computer problem, paying a fixed penalty speeding fine, and finalising and paying for our funeral plans, and exchanging for sterling euros I had kept in a pot for four years. I therefore welcomed a drive out, taking in Brockenhurst, Beaulieu and Lepe.

Several of the forest pools are now foaming with water buttercups.

A virtually deserted Lepe beach was the scene of what I took to be sea defence works of some kind. Apart from a digger on the shingle, much of the equipment seemed to be on larger moored craft with smaller boats engaged in some kind of exploratory activity. Ferry boats and yachts crossed the scene as usual; a daredevil wind surfer delighted in taking to the air; a more upright water skier took advantage of the brisk breeze, and a black dog played fetch with a ball; all against the backdrop of the Isle of Wight.

As we left the car park we were careful not to disturb a beast with two backs.

We stopped off at Milford on Sea to purchase some Mr Pink’s fish and chips to accompany our pickled onions for our dinner at home.

 

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.

 

Crow

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The apparel of the people in today’s photographs demonstrates that, although dry,  the day was once more cold and dismal.

Those walking along Mudeford quay or on the spit were well wrapped up.

We have never seen the water so low at this spot, where the burnt sienna of the exposed sandbank blended with the indigos of the Isle of Wight and The Needles.

It was Jackie who realised the purpose of the red and green buoys was to guide seafarers like these jet skiers, who obligingly arrived to prove her point, round the sandbank.

Gull with crab

A gull made off with a crab.

Not far from the quay is Avon Beach, where, again, those who had ventured onto the sands were swathed in warm clothing.

Crow

A menacing crow lurched awkwardly across the sand.

This evening we dined on a pepperoni pizza topped with additional cheese and tomato, accompanied by salad, with which I drank more of the merlot.

 

 

The Skate Park

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Today was another featuring sunny intervals in cloudy skies. I began with a stroll round the garden where the latest opening rhododendron is progressing well.

Becky and Ian having stayed over, we all lunched at the Beachcomber in Barton on Sea.

The Solent’s waves were choppy; the Isle of Wight and The Needles were swathed in haze;

crows struggled against the blustery wind on the clifftop, and airborne alongside gulls.

This afternoon we took a trip to New Milton where Ian and I visited a solicitor for an executorship matter, while the ladies went shopping. Afterwards I sat on a bench in the Skate Park while Ian hunted for the shoppers.

Skate Park

Black- headed gulls scavenged on the grass against the backdrop of the distant mural;

a couple of young lads experimented with skateboards, until school was out when others joined them on bicycles.

This evening, before Becky and Ian returned home, we all dined on Jackie’s splendid beef pie, crunchy carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli, and creamy mashed potato. Becky and I drank more of the Malbec, Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and Ian, Peroni.

 

A Stag Party

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Becky and Ian returned this morning to their home at Emsworth. This afternoon Jackie drove Flo, Dillon and me out for a drive in the forest.

On the way to Beaulieu, Flo spotted a row of antlers among the gorse on the moors. They belonged to a string of stags. Jackie turned the car round and returned to the spot, where the animals still congregated. As long as we stood still and kept our distance, cervine curiosity kept them interested. When I edged forward, slowly at first they turned tail and suddenly rushed back into the golden covert.

In the foreground of this landscape are some of the many pools springing all over the forest at the moment.

As we approached Beaulieu an obliging pony put on a display of disrupting the traffic for our family visitors.

We visited The Yachtsman’s Bar at Buckler’s Hard for refreshments.

A number of yachts and motorboats were moored in the harbour.

Helicopter over Isle of Wight

We made a small diversion down to the beach at Tanner’s Lane where  we watched a helicopter flying across the Isle of Wight.

The next stop was at Lyndhurst where, in the churchyard of St Michael & All Angels, Flo and Dillon were shown the grave of Mrs Reginald Hargreaves, otherwise known to the world as Lewis Carroll’s Alice. Dillon produced these selfies, while I photographed the stone commemorating Anne Frances Cockerell which I suspect was that of a 23 year old who probably died in childbirth, leaving her husband to live on into the next century.

I also photographed roofs of the Crown Hotel and adjacent buildings,

while Flo crouched to focus on the street below, before she and I photographed each other.

The next grave to be visited was that of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, complete with pipe. It was Flo who captured these images whilst I focussed on her and Dillon.

This was in the graveyard of

Minstead Parish Church. Only the first, vertical, picture of these last seven is mine. The others are Flo’s. The list of rectors, beginning in the thirteenth century, bears out the age of the shattered, regenerated, yew tree to the left of the last photograph, said to be at least 700 years old.

Back home, we dined on Mr Pink’s fish and chips with mushy peas, pickled onions, and gherkins.