Better Than Expected

Today’s winds have dropped to 20 m.p.h.

When opening the gate for Aaron this morning I checked on the storm damage.

There really wasn’t much more than I had noticed yesterday. The downpipe to the water butt on the corner of the kitchen wall had become unstuck; a few extra pots had fallen; the sweet peas had been further loosened; quite a few smaller branches had been ripped off the beech and birch trees; some of the ornamental poplar branches were broken; just one rose stem had been torn; many plants have lost stems; and there was a certain amount of wind burn on one side of the winter flowering cherry and elsewhere, such as various fuchsias.

Aaron began the work of tidying up.

He gathered and bagged up many of the fallen branches and leaves;

trimmed the ornamental poplar, removing the broken branches;

and righted the fallen containers ready for Jackie to replace at her leisure. He observed that the morning had gone very quickly. He likes to be busy.

Bob of Lovewillbringustogether’s Weblog has recently suggested a regular feature of “Where’s Nugget” inviting readers to find our little robin. That, of course, depended on his surviving the storm and returning unscathed. I am happy to report that I heard his gentle chirp as he followed Aaron around.

He nipped up onto a chair for a chat, then flitted off into the Rose Garden.

I admit that the first “Where’s Nugget” puzzle is a little difficult.

The red scented sweet peas may have been blown awry, but there are plenty of clinging seed pods which benefited from an early shower,

and its desiccated leaves provide perfect camouflage for our Meadow Brown butterflies.

These dahlias

and the agapanthuses may have bowed to the elements, but, like the rest of the garden, they have fared far better than expected.

Bees, flies, and crickets have come out to play and to work again,

The Rose Garden has remained virtually unscathed,

and one lily kept its head in the front.

Other flowers, like these cosmoses, dahlias, and rudbeckia are wondering what all the fuss was about.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent beef and mushroom pie in short crust pastry; new potatoes; roasted sweet potato and parsnip; and crunchy carrots, cauliflower, and cabbage; with piquant cauliflower cheese, with which she finished the Austrian white wine and I drank Doom Bar.

Energy-Sapping Humidity


Today was hotter, and considerably more humid than yesterday. I flopped this morning, but didn’t sleep. Perhaps that fact that I slept all yesterday evening had something to do with this. My brief trip into the garden at mid-afternoon was energy-sapping.

Correctly surmising that I might need a rest en route to my planned perch at the Westbrook Arbour, Jackie positioned Mum’s stool beside the Nottingham Castle Bench. I took a few pictures from there, then moved on. Melting, after about twenty minutes I fled back indoors.

I took a cooling break before uploading the pictures. This was extended by a very welcome visit from Shelly and Ron, for which I was most grateful.

My choice of Supermarket prepared meals this evening was fish pie to which Jacke added crisp carrots. leeks, and mange-touts, which added fresh flavour.

The Stable Door


The much needed rain fell overnight and persisted as drizzle this morning. This afternoon we could continue in the garden. My contribution was weeding and making photographs. Jackie did the more creative tidying and planting.

Raindrops were left on poppies, heucheras, foxgloves, blue clematis, spider’s web complete with trapped insect, geraniums, rose For Your Eyes Only, rhododendrons, and libertia.

Clematis Marie Boisselot, and lilies benefited from their wash.


Jackie, leaning on the stable door, was amused at my wandering around with the camera. I have often mentioned the stable door, so , just in case anyone is wondering, I feel bound to mention that we do not keep horses. There is no point when we can trot off in search of some any time we like. What we call the stable door is

Stable door

this. And yes, we do know that, like much of the house, it needs some attention.

This evening we dined on fish, chips, pickled onions, and gherkins. Jackie drank Peroni and I drank more of the cabernet sauvignon.

The Perfect Camouflage

BegoniasDahlia mauveThis morning our plants enjoyed some welcome rain; I identified, scanned, and retouched twenty black and white negatives from my unsorted collection; and Jackie shopped for Dahlia peachLilyPetuniaRose Compassionand prepared our evening meal. Burghers of Calais 1982 1When, on 24th October last year I visited the site of Rodin’s Burghers of Calais, I mentioned some missing prints I had made in the 1970s. In fact I was confusing them with some black and white ones from 1982. This were among the negatives I worked on today, and I reproduce one here. Anyone familiar with the work will recognise that the position in which I needed to stretch myself for this shot would probably be beyond me now.

This set of negatives can be safely dated at early summer 1982, by the same method of deduction as the colour ones featured on 20th July. A trip to Cannizaro Park alongside Wimbledon Common with the Shnaps family provides one theme. Girls in park (cartwheel) 1982I think it must have been in the park that the unknown girl was about to turn her cartwheel.Matthew & Sam, Maurice, Jessica, Beverley, Becky 1982Matthew & Sam, Maurice, Jessica, Beverley, Becky 1982

Jessica, Becky, Maurice and Beverley, with their boys, brought up the rear as Sam delightedly raced into his brother Matthew’s arms.

Becky 1982 2Michael 1982 3There were also a number of pleasing portraits of my other offspring, Becky and Michael.

The Zebby board books were a great favourite. Never having seen them before or since, I think I bought them in one of London’s many remainder bookshops. Michael & Sam 1982 2Michael here reads to Sam, whose excited expression suggests this book was ‘Where’s Zebby?’. Sam must have spotted him before he emerges from behind the upright railings that offered him the perfect camouflage. Board books are heavy duty and can withstand a considerable amount of attempted mutilation from young fingers and teeth.

On a bright and blustery afternoon, having missed the post at Shorefield, and wishing to ensure that Alice received her birthday gift on time, I walked on along the cliff top to the Needles Eye cafe and up Sea Road to the Milford on Sea Post Office. I missed that one too. Never mind, my granddaughter will forgive me.MotorboatCouple on folding chairsGroup on beachCouple on shingleCouple walking shingle

I returned to the path overlooking the sea via Park Lane, and thence home. Motorboats sped along the solent, and hardy holidaymakers sat watching the waves or walked along the shingle.

I know you will all be keen to learn what Jackie cooked during the day and served up this evening. Now I can reveal that it was her trademark juicy lamb jalfrezi (recipe), and it was delicious. It was accompanied by vegetable samosas, mini poratas, and boiled rice; and followed by mixed fruit crumble and custard. The proprietors of the Shaan in Newark would approve of our choice of dessert. Jackie drank Kingfisher and I drank Cobra.

Privilege Customer

Bramble blossom

BrambleNo matter how thorough you try to be in pulling up and eradicating brambles, there are always some that catch your eye as you wander around. For this reason I went on a bramble hunt today. Some, by now, are announcing their presence with blossom and budding fruit; others are so long and straggly they make you wonder how you missed them. So skilled in the art of camouflage are these thorny ramblers that I was constantly amazed at how much space was opened in the shrubberies simply by removing them. No doubt if I repeat the process in a day or two, I will be equally surprised.

Jackie continued weeding, watering and planting.

EchinopsagapanthushoneysuckleHibiscusAmong the recent discoveries more welcome than the unwanted growth have been echinops, agapanthus, and honeysuckle whose pink blends quite well with the blue arch around which it clambers.

Not knowing what colour to expect, we have been eagerly awaiting the blooming of the hibiscus in the front garden. We were not disappointed by its interesting pink hues.

For a late lunch today we visited the Needles Eye Cafe in Milford on Sea. Jackie enjoyed a cheese omelette, chips, salad, and diet coke; whilst I, once I had jogged the waiter’s memory, relished a maxed-up breakfast with tea. This large fry-up comes with toast and marmalade. For the second time, my toast was forgotten. I assured the staff member that I did not take it personally as I was not paranoid.

Beach sceneBeach scene 2We had not been to this beach in hot holiday weather before, so it was something of a shock to walk to the path at the top of the shingle and be confronted by a picture postcard scene. ‘Oh, yes. We live here’, we said.

After our meal Jackie drove us on to Stewart’s Garden Centre at Christchurch and back. Just before my last trip to France, I had signed up for a Stewart’s Privilege Customer card. One of the benefits of this is that you may buy two samples of specific plants at half price. The choice changes monthly. The July selection is agapanthus. After dropping me off at the airport on 8th July, Jackie hot wheeled it off to Stewart’s to choose her agapanthuses. She found two marvellous full-budded specimens. Taking out the coupon from the monthly magazine, she proffered her pennies. She was asked for the Privilege card. Ah. It was in my wallet in Sigoules.

The card is now safely in Jackie’s purse, so off we had gone to choose some more of the perennial blue plants. Agapanthus and clematisesUnfortunately there were only a few, decidedly past their best for this year, left. Never mind, we could still have two of them – and we found two that will do very nicely next year – and, in compensation for their condition, a clematis also at half price. we chose Inspiration ‘Zoin’.

LilyThis evening I wandered down to the postbox. A lily has escaped into the hedgerow in Downton Lane.

No Mod Cons

This morning Jackie drove us to Ringwood to collect two pairs of my shoes from the repairers, and to do some banking. On our return we visited the Marine restaurant in Milford on Sea to investigate the menu to glean whether we might wish to dine there this evening. The ground floor cafe was open but not the restaurant which would naturally open this evening. A very helpful young man with a smart haircut reminiscent, as I told him, of about sixty years ago, – I’m sure every male visiting Old Compton Street’s 2i’s coffee bar sported one – attempted to give me the information I required. Very soon we realised he had handed me the Sunday lunch menu, and it is Monday. He went up to the restaurant to find a fuller one. He came down empty handed, and had a further hunt downstairs. In the end I was referred to the internet. On looking it up later, we decided it wasn’t quite what we were seeking.

As she drove down Downton Lane, Jackie was required to stop and park so that I could listen to a reading of an extract from ‘The Gruffalo’s Child’ by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Well, it’s not every day that your five year old grandson (Malachi) telephones you from his new house in Australia to wish you a happy birthday,Lily and proceeds to demonstrate the reading prowess for which he has recently received an award.. You wouldn’t want to be driven out of reach of a mobile signal. Well, not during the first fifteen minutes or so anyway.

Shelly dropped in this afternoon with a birthday present and had the obligatory tour of the garden. Today’s new lily was another deep mauve/red one.

Given that today is my seventy second birthday it seemed appropriate to revisit Elizabeth’s ‘through the ages’ series. Number 51 was taken by Jessica, in probably around 1976.  I only visited the cottage in the foothills of Snowdon a couple of times, which, I believe, is one more than our friend Maurice Schnapps.Derrick with Pete, Michael, Matthew and Becky

Seen with me in the picture are, from left to right, Michael’s friend Pete, Michael, Matthew, and Becky. It rather looks as if the children were somewhat reluctant to pose.

The establishment outside which I believe we were photographed, was a favourite holiday abode of Jessica’s. She and the children were made of sterner stuff than Maurice and I. We preferred a little luxury when away from home. The cottage had been bought by an uncle of Jessica’s as a stopover point when taking bands of boys from Rugby school to climb Mount Snowdon. As such it was definitely character-building. My regular readers will understand that the climb wasn’t my cup of tea either. Speaking of cups of tea, I cannot remember exactly how one would have been produced in that abode, but I am sure it would have involved a trek outside and a little ingenuity. There was, you see, no running water, and, of course, no electricity. Water was produced from a pipe on the hillside. H2O did penetrate from somewhere, because the place was exceedingly damp.

Do I hear you asking what happened to poo? Ah, well. You had to dig a hole at the beginning of your stay, fill it with bucket loads as the week progressed, and cover it up afterwards. Simple enough, you may think. Ah, but. The cottage was semi-detached. To reach your chosen site for refuse, you had to walk past a pair of rather savage looking and sounding dogs tethered on fairly long leads. Perhaps it was the smell of what you carried that encouraged them to strain to reach you. When past them, and applying your spade, you rather hoped you would pick a spot that hadn’t been used before. It was best not to carry out this operation in the dark. For those unfamiliar with today’s title, it is a shortened form of ‘No Modern Conveniences’, usually slightly differently expressed, in advertisements for holiday cottages, as ‘All Mod Cons’.

I do apologise to those who loved that place. I’m just a soft townie.

Jessica and Imogen, Malachi’s rather less couth cousins from Nottingham, chose to telephone me and give me a rendering of ‘Happy Birthday’ just as Jackie and I were sitting down to the usual excellent meal at The Jarna. Their version hinges on the couplet: ‘Happy birthday to you, Put your head down the loo’, followed by uncontrollable giggling.

The Crab Pot

MapleMany attractive trees and shrubs, like this beautiful green-barked maple, are simply in the wrong place and require sadly severe treatment. This one was denying access to the potting shed and encroaching upon the path, forcing other plants to do the same. We trust it will recover from this morning’s extensive amputations.

Elizabeth drove Mum over from West End for lunch and to view our new home, with which she was very taken. Before lunch, we had a tour of the garden. Our mother, in her ninety second year was determined and delighted to see everything. Mum negotiating pathConcentrating hard on her Mum (Jackie and Elizabeth hidden)Elizabeth and Jackietwo sticks, she walked with me every step of the sometimes uneven paths, whilst Jackie and Elizabeth wandered rather more quickly at will.

Petunias in chimney potLysimachiaThe chimney pot planting is now well established, with such as scented petunias looking splendid. A Lysimachia, Jackie has also introduced, is in full bloom.

HeucheraHeucheras are grown for the beauty and variety of their leaves. Described by our resident horticulturist as ‘the gardener’s dream’, they are hardy plants which can tolerate shade and grow in any type of soil. Needless to say we now have a great many adding colour to most beds. Their clusters of small flowers, blending with their foliage, cling to long slender stems.

Snake bark maple autumn leavesThe snake bark maple is now beginning to wear its autumn colours which stand out well against the weeping birch leaves. We hope that this early display is not a sign of something sinister, and simply perhaps that it is a native of North America.

Lily with hoverfly

Another delicately hued yellow lily is attractive not only to us but also to hoverflies;Penstemon

a deep magenta penstemon is rewarding us for freeing it from choking brambles;Honeysuckle

and honeysuckle has now taken over decorative duties from the roses around the entrance to the front garden.

It is three years since our mother, who lives in a bungalow, has tackled any stairs at all, let alone our rather steep ones. She did, however, with me climbing ahead, and Elizabeth behind, manage to ascend to our first floor and suitably admire the rest of the abode. This was after we had enjoyed another of Jackie’s lavish salad lunches.

Back in the late 1980s, when she was much fitter, Mum regularly drove up to Newark for an annual two week holiday. One year she admired some artefacts in an architectural salvage establishment in the town, saying she would quite like to buy one. I had no recollection of this until she reminded me today, but I had bought it for her and taken it down to Horndean where she was living at the time.

She has developed a practice of, when appropriate, returning presents long since forgotten by the giver. Today, she and Elizabeth both brought me gifts for my birthday tomorrow. Crab potMum’s came with a card which apologised for returning ‘this’ in a tatty state, but perhaps I might like to make a project of it. It was that very same iron and rope crab pot I had given her about 25 years ago. Apparently it has lost its rope handle. But who cares?

After our visitors had departed it was a while before we felt like eating, when fish fingers provided a more than adequate snack.