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,




cyclamen leaves,

weeping birch bark,


 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.

Reflective Mood

It wasn’t until about 4 p.m. the afternoon that I realised on glancing through the window beside my desk that the sun had made a fleeting appearance as,

against the still indigo skies, it lit the pink rambling rose rising from the front trellis.

Its deeper pink companion soared above the porch, and the first of the Félicité Perpétue blooms which will drape themselves over the opposite fence has opened out.

I had spent the morning reading and responding to the letters of condolences it has taken me three months to complete. We posted these from Everton Post Office and drove on further into the forest.

Royden Lane took us to

Lower Sandy Down. On the left hand side of this shot stands

a large oak tree the bole of which is home to ferns, ivy, and mosses.

An unusual number of ponies grazed around Hatchet Pond, normally the realm of donkeys.

Stately swans disturbed the surface of the lake which mirrored their images.

A black headed gull was in an equally reflective mood.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s perfect pork paprika; boiled new potatoes; breaded mushrooms; and green beans. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Carmenere.

Our Joint One Good Knee

Last night I watched a recording of Saturday’s breathtaking rugby match between Wales and South Africa; after lunch today the soporific contest between Scotland and Argentina.
Bright sunshine had taken me into the rather cold garden this morning.

Winter pansies and trailing ivy adorn hanging baskets on the sitting room walls.


and Japanese maples brighten several vistas.

Surprises include lingering snapdragons

and nascent honeysuckle.

Ubiquitous flamboyant fuchsias continue to flounce among the beds.

Clematises needing warmer weather have died back from the gazebo, but the Cirrhosa Freckles will enliven their support right through until spring.

Carpet roses, like this one in the Weeping Birch Bed, pile on the blooms.

Serpentine stemmed bobbles of Japanese anemones cavort before a spider web in the Rose Garden.

A few crinkly leaves are still to fall from the copper beach;

the Weeping Birch has shed all hers.

Being possessed of our one joint good knee, it fell upon Jackie to fit a new toilet seat in the print room.

This evening we dined on Jackies’s splendid lamb jalfrezi with savoury rice followed by profiteroles. My wife drank Hoegaarden; sister Elizabeth drank Hop House lager; and I drank Tesco’s finest Médoc 2016.

Ponies At The Door

After an exchange of e-mails this morning, I had sufficient information to make the bank transfer of payment for the unexpected French land tax demand. Jackie drove me to the bank at Lymington where I completed the process.
We then took a brief drive into the forest. Seeking colour under a sunless granite sky was a little optimistic, but the unusually warm temperature was pleasant enough.

Undershore, popular with intrepid pedestrians

links land alongside Lymington Reed Beds with Pilley Hill. A footpath signed before a picket fence follows the side of Lymington River. Road closures in Pilley, where we wanted to book a table at the Fleur de Lys for tomorrow night, meant we retraced our wheels to take this route.

Two of the usual hopefuls waited at the door of Greatham House at Brockenhurst for pony treats.

This evening Jackie and I dined at Lal Quilla. Jackie chose chicken sag as her main course; mine was chicken jaljala; we shared special fried rice and an egg paratha; we both drank Kingfisher. Jackie was given two large carrier bags full of chillis – enough to see us out. I hope there is enough room in the freezer.

Before And After: The North Breeze Boundary

‘Boundary’ is a polite term for what should have separated our garden from that of ‘North Breeze’, the unoccupied house to the west of ours. It stretches from front to back from the street to the corner of the back drive and most of the way down that.

I learned this when the Head Gardener decided to hack through the undergrowth on that side of our brick path. Until then I had enjoyed a short-lived oblivion.



I began on the section adjacent to the patio. This is what I found on 26th May 2014. The lonicera hedge had romped with brambles over and through the bits and pieces that were meant to divide the gardens, rooted on our side, and sent further stems to settle further in. I really rather wanted to go home, until I remembered I was already there.

Lonicera tangle

By 1st June I had cut my way to a length of strong wire. I still had to dig out the root shown on our side.

Netting fence

There was quite a lot of netting lying around the garden. We gathered this up and the next day I reinforced what I could make out of the dividing line. I could now see where I had come from, if not yet where I was going.

Blackbird's eggs in nest

The day after that, mother nature granted me a respite, in the form of a blackbird’s nest, complete with eggs. I clearly could not disturb this any more than I had done already. I waited patiently for another couple of weeks whilst the parent incubated her offspring. Then a magpie struck. This story was not inspired by Bruce Goodman, although I trust that fine storyteller would approve of it.

Adjoining fence of IKEA wardrobes

On 21st July, I continued my makeshift fence with discarded IKEA wardrobe sections.

Lonicera hedge far corner

I had reached the far corner, and was about to turn into the back drive. Oh, joy.


Ivy covered stump

Brambles and ivy proliferated, even rooting in the line of dead stumps, and, of course, across the drive itself.

Wire netting in hedge 1

Wire netting had become entwined with the infiltrators. The iron stake in the bottom left of this photograph was one of two rows each of four lining either side of the drive.

Derrick hacksawing iron stake

They were deeply buried in concrete, so I had to hacksaw most of them off.

Rooting out

Having reached the five-barred gate at the far end on 16th October I made a photograph showing the lopping of the griselinia and the rooting out of brambles.

I stayed inside today, whilst Jackie continued her sterling clearance work.

For the first dinner I have been able to face in two days, I opted for a bacon sandwich which I enjoyed. I required no liquid sustenance. How long, I wonder, will an opened bottle of malbec stay potable? Fortunately there was still some curry left for The Cook,

The White Garden

Hunting through our house purchase documents for some clarity about responsibility for the huge amount of fencing in various stages of health that borders our property, I was unsuccessful in that, but I did discover the names of the houses in our little hamlet. We are one of four on our side of Downton Lane. In order, progressing along Christchurch Road towards that lane there stand Mistletoe Cottage, Old Post House, North Breeze (the empty bungalow), and Smallacres (now residential care). I will use the correct nomenclature in future. The sum total of my morning’s work on the back drive was the scalping (see yesterday) of just one tree stump. The fencing between us and Smallacres is in not much better SmallacresStump and ivy stemscondition than that we share with North Breeze.  The hitherto unseen rear view of the residential establishment is now exposed. Much of our thick ivy stems and brambles grows through the flimsy wooden structure, so pulling and hoping for the best is out. Surgical skill is required to cut the growth from our side at the point of entry. This afternoon I made a bit more progress. Once I had cut off enough of the thick ivy branches cascading over the stumps, I pulled away the stems adhering to the dead wood. This would produce a shower of decidedly dry brown dust inducing a coughing fit that lingered over lunch. Ploughing 1When I had had enough, I wandered over to Roger’s fields, and was most impressed with the work of the ploughman who had now produced acres of fine cross-hatching on what had been full of forage maize barely a week ago. As I walked along admiring the precision I noticed four tussocks lying on the land. They spoiled the man’s artistry so much that I felt inclined to remove them, but didn’t like to put my footprints on the soil. As the tractor hove Picking up tussocksinto view, it was stopped alongside these blemishes. Out stepped Roger Cobb, who walked across and picked them up. This man is a perfectionist. We spoke for a while during which he told me of a forthcoming vintage ploughing match similar to the one I had photographed in Southwell twenty two years ago. I feel another set of pictures coming on. Ploughman 'getting on'‘I must get on’, said my informant, and took his tractor into the dusk, against the lowering Skyskies. I was slightly puzzled, on this short trip, to notice that my camera battery needed charging rather sooner than I had anticipated. All became clear when Jackie informed me that she had been so impressed with all the white flowers still blooming in the garden that she had borrowed the Canon S100. Here is a selection of the photographs she took earlier:Begonias

BegoniasBegonia small

Smaller begoniasAlyssum

AlyssumErigeron - Version 2








ImpatiensJapanese anemone

Japanese anemoneSweet peas

Sweet pea.

Given how incensed some people become when supermarkets begin stacking their shelves for Christmas in August, I hesitate to repeat Jackie’s quip; when she served up a roast chicken dinner tonight, complete with homemade sage and onion stuffing, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and parsnips, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots and gravy, followed by profiteroles; that she was practising for that festive occasion. But she was only joking, and it was delicious. She drank Hoegaarden whilst I consumed more of the rioja.


Taking advantage of our good fortune in having such a long, dry, summer extending well into September, we worked on the garden again today. I continued pruning and removing foliage from the empty house side of our back drive, whilst Jackie dealt similarly with the last of the lonicera to the side of the house in the front.
The section on which I worked revealed the familiar hotchpotch of rotting fencing supplemented by all kinds of interesting material in metal or plastic. It also exposed a line of stumps standing like sentinels along the drive.Back drive fence 1Back drive fence 2Back drive fence 3Back drive fence 4
By lunchtime, I had reached the first bonfire, roughly half-way. Afterwards I continued as far as the second fire which we weren’t using today. It was music to my ears at this point to hear the trickling of the water feature in the garden of the residential care home on the corner of Downton Lane. As I stripped ivy from a tree trunk I could see that the overgrown vegetation was now on our side only, because the staff of this property maintained their garden.IvyIvy covered stump
Bonfire and sunThe parasitic growths that were choking the death out of the stumps of the row of trees felled long ago, gave the impression that their hosts had become regenerated. I half expected them, like Tolkien’s Ents, to lumber cumbersomely towards me. It took an hour to free the tree in these photographs of its hair-do.
Naturally, we kept our fire going all day, and just as the sun was thinking about making its way a little further West to bed for the night, the last of the lonicera lingered in the flames.
Jackie was still working on tidying her bed.Hedgehog hibernating As she raked up plants she had cut down, she came across a rather disgruntled hedgehog settling down for the winter amongst a pile of leaves. Naturally, she tucked him in again.
This evening we dined on excellent  cod, chips, peas, and onion rings at The Royal Oak. Jackie’s dessert was chocolate fudge cake, and mine was fruits of the forest cheesecake. She drank Peroni and i drank Doom Bar.

Over The Fence

Knackered 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.

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. These 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:

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.

Before that, 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.


On this sparkling autumn morning I bade farewell to Morden Park; to its squirrels, its magpies, its rooks, its parakeets; and the many passing acquaintances I have met there in the last eighteen months.

Jackie, during the next couple of days, will be engaged in much more difficult goodbyes, as she leaves Merton Social Services Department after more than thirty years employment during which she has undergone many changes.

Noticing one of the regular dog walkers trying to coax his reluctant labrador out of the park, I commented that it was usually the dog tugging the man. ‘E don’ wanna go ‘ome’, was the reply.  ‘E’s all right comin’ in, but now ‘e says: ‘c’mon Dad, let me play a bit longer’.  Further on I met a woman with two dogs, talking to a couple with another.  She was saying that the pulling dogs really hurt her arm.  I told the story of my earlier conversation.  They all laughed and she said: ‘If they ‘ad their way they’d stay ‘ere too’.  Later a man watching me vainly trying to capture with my Canon a bright green parakeet sunning itself on a oak branch said: ‘There’s loads of ’em round ‘ere’.  I guess I will become equally familiar with a rather different accent in The New Forest.Morden Park 11.12 (2)

Contemplating fruiting ivy surmounting a wire mesh fence took me back to autumns in Lindum House.  The grounds were surrounded by a lias limestone wall, the material of which was centuries old.  This had been scavenged by early builders from the ruins of Newark Castle which had, during the Civil War, been destroyed by the Royalists as they were about to be defeated, so that Cromwell’s men could not make use of it.  Clambering over this wall was much older ivy than Morden’s.  The stems were very thick and I had to prune it every year to prevent it from endangering passers-by.  It could poke your eye out.

As, in December 1987, we stood at the two-hundred-year-old cast iron gate watching the removal men depart, Jessica had said: ‘This is it, isn’t it?’, meaning this would be our last move.  Sadly, this was not to be, for nineteen years later, I was soon to be widowed for the second time, and to return to London.  There have been five changes of abode since then, not counting the holiday home in Sigoules.  Maybe Minstead will be the last.  It is certainly a very exciting prospect.

Sometimes happily, sometimes not so, I have therefore become quite accustomed to removal men, none so remarkable as the young Maltese who was on the team that moved us from Furzedown to Newark.  He was a huge man with massive, powerful, hands.  He carried a full tea chest of books on one shoulder, whilst one-handedly wielding an armchair in the other hand.  Time and again.  When it came to returning the tea chests to the van, he would, by the corners, grip four in each hand.  This charming character, full of smiles, could not speak English, but his colleagues, whose task he made much easier, told me his story.  He had come to England for what would be a life-saving operation on his pituitary gland.  He was suffering from gigantism and needed medical intervention to stop him growing.  I have often wondered how he is.

For this evening’s meal I made a lamb jalfrezi.  I have never before managed to make one from left over roast lamb, as opposed to balti pre-cooked meat, without it still tasting like an English roast.  This time I worked hard at it and succeeded.  Jackie drank her usual Hoegaarden with it, and, unusually, I drank Roc de Lussac St. Emilion 2010.

Pernicious Tendrils

Today was dull, but the rain largely kept off, and we were able to continue with the gardening.  Jackie helped me with the preparation of the scented bed.  What I pruned off or dug up, she cut up and bagged up.  All in readiness for the next bonfire.  This afternoon she carried on with her own projects and Elizabeth with the weeding of the herb bed.

I managed to get far enough with the new bed to compost the beginning of it so Jackie could put some plants in.  We had found a number in pots covered by the undergrowth and forgotten.  In particular there were three of tradescantia (outdoor variety) destined for Mum.  It was a good thing that Jackie decided to check them over, for each one contained a thriving colony of red ants.  As she laid them out on plastic sheeting in an effort to persuade the ants to seek a new home, she suggested I didn’t sit on the edge of the table unless I wanted ants in my pants.  Noticing the absence of our friendly robin, we recollected that we hadn’t seen it for a few days.  Jackie had, however, unearthed an unidentifiable avian corpse from a flower bed.

We have got to the stage where we are beginning to think of garden adornments, other than the ubiquitous hanging baskets.  Rickety benches which could not safely hold a human, make a good plant table; as does one of Elizabeth’s painted treasures.  Moving the little girl mentioned yesterday was just a start.

My target for today with the new bed, was to reach a row of grass cuttings which had been laid alongside the laurel boundary hedge a year ago.  This was a nice clear bit which, with any luck, would have broken down into compost, and kept the weeds away.  En route to this heap, I tackled the additional menace of lilac suckers which had to be uprooted.  I wasn’t too worried about the long trailing stems of honeysuckle and ivy which could be pulled until resistance was met, then dug up where they had taken root, then on to the next rooted bit.  The ivy was, however, getting thicker-stemmed the nearer I got to the laurel.  All right, I thought, I will find it bound around the laurel trunks, and have to set about removing it.  Well, I didn’t get that far.  I did reach the hedge, but will have to leave eradication of the mature ivy until next week.  This is because the lovely warm, rotting, packed chunks of grass cuttings had provided a perfect incubator for little pure white tendrils.  Lots of healthy young ivies.  There are three different unwelcome plants with which I have done battle in three different gardens.  Bindweed in Stanton Road during my childhood; ground elder in Lindum House in Newark; and ivy in Sutherland Place, W2.  What they all have in common is that they send out long tendrils which take root whenever they feel like it and produce a new plant, and so on ad infinitum.  The other property they share is that of being able to reproduce themselves from the slightest little rootlet or stem left behind by the most careful of gardeners.  I never did get rid of Stanton Road’s convulvulus; it took sixteen years to rid the Lindum House vegetable garden of ground elder; it took two weekends to clear Sutherland Place of ivy.  Ivy is the toughest of all these to remove, as, if undisturbed, it can grow extremely thick stems which cling to branches and walls and are sometimes impossible to prise off.  But it is not as sneaky as the others, for its tendrils remain overground.  It gives you a challenge and a chance.  The little white tendrils I had discovered today, would eventually have emerged into the light.

This evening last night’s chicken bolognese was served with vegetables, and we had the same puddings and wine or beer according to our taste.  Afterwards Jackie drove us home whilst I dozed by her side.