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In ‘The Scent Of A Squirrel’, I described the aroma of dead rodents. A similar, very mild smell has, over a day or two, emanated from our dressing room. Last night, Jackie discovered a leaking radiator therein. Let us hope that dirty dripping onto the ancient carpet beneath it is the cause of the strange pong.

Our nostrils definitely preferred the perfume of the paint Aaron applied to our landing woodwork this morning.

Some of you may know that Jackie and I breakfast on a 12 cup (4 mug) cafetiere of coffee each morning. After a good thirty years, this container is showing signs of wear. We have been searching unsuccessfully for one for a while. Whilst Christmas shopping in Lyndhurst Jackie had noticed a shop where they were on sale. On this damp, overcast, afternoon with temperatures in double figures centigrade, she drove us there to buy one.

New Forest Centre

Considered the ‘Capital of The New Forest’, Lyndhurst boasts the Visitor Centre alongside its car park, which leads into

High Street

the High Street, where the approaching family managed to shepherd their children

Meridien Modena Classiche

across the traffic island on the corner facing what was my local NatWest Bank branch when we lived in Minstead. It is now an adjunct to

Meridien Modena

Meridien Modena where you can buy a Maserati among other luxury cars. Lyndhurst, you see, is rather upmarket.

The Mailman's Arms

The car showrooms extend alongside The Mailman’s Arms,

The Stag Hotel

itself next to The Stag Hotel, also visible in the High Street shot.

Almost every establishment on this high street caters for the thriving tourist trade, although

Shaw Trust

 Shaw Trust is one of several charity shops.

Sweet shop

There is a sweetshop with its goodies in modern plastic jars, the glass versions of which will be familiar to my contemporaries.

The Old Apothecary and Goose Green

The Old Apothecary was probably once a pharmacy, but Goose Green, situated on the road to Emery Down, has, as far as I know, nothing to do with the decisive battle of the 1982 Falklands War.

Pages of Lyndhurst 1

Pages of Lyndhurst 2

Pages of Lyndhurst inside 1

The Entrance to Pages of Lyndhurst suggests that there would be much more than coffee on sale in this Aladdin’s cave. And, indeed, that is where Jackie found the cafetiere.

Pages of Lyndhurst inside 2

They even boast a car showroom to rival Meridien Modena.

Onomatopoeia and Marina's Sandwich Bar

Next door to Marina’s Sandwich Shop lies Onomatopoeia, though why an outlet not in the audio business would choose such a name escapes me.

Jackie outside Christopher Stephens

The young ladies outside Pages were aiming for Christopher Stephens jeweller’s in the side window of which Jackie was inspecting further brooches similar to the one we bought there for Becky.

Served with fresh vegetables, the second half of Jackie’s superb steak and mushroom pie was enjoyed for our dinner tonight. I finished the chianti and Jackie drank Hoegaarden.

Santa’s Little Helper

Bathroom door 1Bathroom door 2When Aaron, continuing his work on the bathroom, engaged Jackie and me in a debate about whether or not he should paint both sides of the bathroom door, he observed that he loved a difference of opinion. Jackie said he could do what he liked – the other side of the door will be painted anyway when he does its companions on the landing. I pointed out that that left him in the position of having to choose between us, and likened it to Christmas at Mat and Tess’s a few years ago.

I have two Antipodean daughters in law. Tess is from New Zealand, and Holly is an Aussie. They each presented me with a bottle of their native wines, asking which I would like to open first. I was between the rock of Marlborough and the hard place of Margaret River. Aaron suggested I might have taken a nice French one out of the cupboard. Sitting firmly on the fence, I said we would no doubt drink them both, so I would open them together – a somewhat difficult manoeuvre, especially for one who is not exactly a dab hand with a corkscrew.

Yesterday afternoon in New Milton, and today in Lyndhurst, we had far more success with Christmas presents than hitherto.

Lyndhurst, the tourist hub of The New Forest, was very busy.

Post Boxes and Santa's little helper

Santa’s Little Helper stood by the twin post boxes, keeping her eye on a cardboard container on the wall surrounding the Christmas tree. I imagine this was for the collection of letters to Father Christmas. (In truth she was selling cup cakes, but let’s not allow the truth to spoil an idiotic idea.)

It is normal for our post boxes to bear a bas-relief of the sovereign’s initials. The one against which our subject is leaning is embellished with GR and the other with EIIR. I don’t know which of the six Georges was on the throne when the first was installed; and since there were no such amenities during the reign of the first Elizabeth, the II on the second is probably a little superfluous.

Skyscape

On our way home, as the sun was thinking about calling it a day, we diverted to Milford on Sea. The concave section of the cliff edge in this shot, is where another section has fallen away.

Jogger on shore

A number of joggers were about. Here one runs along the shoreline.

This evening we enjoyed a dinner of Jackie’s glorious sausage casserole; crisp carrots and Brussels sprouts; boiled potatoes; and fried leeks. I drank Old Crafty Hen.

Honey Bees And Christmas Lights

Giles visited this morning and stayed for lunch.

Bee on Mahonia

 

On a wander round the garden he was pleased to notice that the mahonia was still attracting bees.

Rose Jacqueline du Pre

Jacqueline du Pre was enjoying a resurgence in the rose garden.

Before lunch, our friend and I took a walk across the field by the post box, through the wood to the road, and back. My phone battery needed recharging, so I couldn’t take it with us.

It is six months since Jackie and I last dined at the Family House in Totton. We know that because Lennox, the latest member of the family was due a day or two after our visit, and he will be six months old in three days time. We ate there tonight and were amused to see his parents sharing the tasks of running the restaurant and holding their son, given that that is just what Matthew and Tess were doing in their establishment yesterday.

We received our usual warm welcome and excellent food, accompanied by Tsingtao beer.

En route we enjoyed Christmas lights at

Christmas lights 1

Lyndhurst,

Christmas lights 4

Beaulieu,

Christmas lights 5

and Lymington.

In the left foreground of the Lymington photograph can be seen the gold-painted postbox, so decorated in honour of Ben Ainslie who won his fourth Olympic gold yachting medal in 2012.

As Wikipedia puts it: ‘To commemorate British and Irish gold medal winners at the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2012 Summer Paralympics, various postboxes around the United Kingdom, plus one each on Sark and the Isle of Man, were repainted [by the Royal Mail] from their traditional red into gold. It marked the first occasion in modern times that the colour of post boxes in the United Kingdom had been changed from their traditional red. Originally intended to be a temporary measure, it was later decided the colour change would become a permanent tribute, with boxes additionally receiving their own special plaques.’

This is the story of Ben Ainslie’s: ‘For sailor Ben Ainslie, the Mail initially painted a box in Restronguet Passage, Cornwall, the place [where] he grew up and learned to sail. A member of the public then vandalised a box in Lymington High Street, Hampshire, on the basis that Ainslie was a long time resident and considered somewhat of a local legend. After initially filing a complaint, the Mail relented to a public campaign and decided to officially paint the Lymington box.’

The Cat’s Paws

This morning Jackie carried out further heavy weeding of the oval bed, whilst I didn’t quite manage to empty the bath.

First I had to reach the object of my attention. This involved pruning the box hedge which was its first line of defence. Then that of brambles had to be breached. Then what I had cut away had to be transported to the pile for burning. Then I had to balance on the rim of the bath and try to make an indentation in the soil and rubbish it contained. Then I shovelled out spadefuls trying to place them somewhere sensible. It was easier when I could stand inside it. Every so often I climbed out and tried to tip it up. It’s no good, I am going to have to take everything out of it before I can even shift it. I do hope it is not made of cast iron. Just In case anyone doubts that yesterday’s picture was indeed of a bath, this is a photograph showing how far I have progressed:Bath in garden

This afternoon we drove to Bitterne to visit The First Gallery’s exhibition of works by Alvin Betteridge and M.H.Clarke. Although the exhibits are not the same as the earlier show, this was the first day of a weekend’s reprisal of the gallery’s first exhibition forty years ago. We arrived between the day’s open show and the later private viewing. If you are interested in original works of art by an established artist and her guests, often equally well known, at reasonable prices ‘in a domestic setting’, you could do worse that visit them at http://www.TheFirstGallery.co.uk, or better still at home at No. 1 Burnham Chase. We did, in fact, make a purchase which we left with Paul who runs a picture framing surface from the same address. Margery and her son Paul, are good friends of ours and we had an enjoyable conversation before returning to Old Post House.

We didn’t quite manage to go directly home. Ever trying to find routes through the New Forest which don’t involve the usually slow crawl through Lyndhurst, Jackie decided to continue along the A31 to Forest Road from whence she would drive through Emery Down. Forest Road was still closed to traffic following repairs to the cattle grid which should have been completed well before now. It does seem to be a feature of the area that roads are sealed off for works that don’t take place for months on end. With the occasional mild expletive, my chauffeuse continued along the major road to the Burley turn off. By this time we had developed a taste for a Chinese meal and I suggested a greater diversion through Brockenhurst where we could dine at Yenz Chinese restaurant which we had enjoyed as recently as 3rd April. This was not to be. From opposite the establishment I crossed the road in rain reminiscent of last year’s waterlogged summer, to read a notice saying that the business had closed down.

Now what? Well, we could try Lymington. We did. As we wandered along the High Street, Lymington looked remarkably quiet and closed for a holiday centre on a Saturday night in summer. Tesco’s was open, so Jackie went in and enquired. Fusion InnStartersMainsShe was directed to the far end of town to Fusion Inn. It wasn’t serving Chinese food, but, much more appropriately termed fusion, Thai. ‘That’ll do’, we said. And it most certainly did. The food was excellent; the service friendly and efficient; and the Tiger beer thirst-quenching.

Still serving as a pub, the integral restaurant provides the fusion bit. By inference, we have surmised that the building dates from the 1750s. This is because of the legend on a brass plaque affixed to the wall by our table. According to the manager the pub was originally called ‘The Old English Gentleman’; later it became ‘The Black Cat’; and eleven years ago ‘Fusion Inn’. The feline name came from a brick in the wall.Cat's paw print 1 A small section of the brickwork in a plastered wall has been left free of rendering. This is to expose the paw prints of a cat that we are told would have been left in the wet brick in the 1750s. It was found by John Allison during restoration work.

A Squabble Of Seagulls

The air was much colder today, and the weak sun only briefly penetrated the mist after mid-day.Misty landscape Even late in the morning, as I walked to Lyndhurst via Mill Lane and Pikes Hill, the Pony & prunusPonylandscape beyond the first layer of trees was obscured. At the top of Mill Lane one pony chomped under a flowering prunus whilst another looked as if it had done battle with a bramble.

Horse & foalFurther on a mare and her lanky adolescent offspring ceased nuzzling each other to wander across and pass the time of the day with me as I leant on a wooden five-barred gate.

The plan today was that I would walk to the Post Office in Lyndhurst to arrange postal redirection, and retire to the car park where Jackie would meet me with the Modus. In the event, I made good progress and didn’t take long in the Post Office, so I was half an hour early and sat on a bench watching the people go by.Mother & child A mother was teaching her little daughter how to cross the road, by looking both ways I imagine.

I had phoned Malachi a couple of days ago to ask him what he would like me to send him from England for his birthday. He thought ‘something to do with stars’ would be ‘cool’. I was very surprised to find just the thing in Lyndhurst, so it looks as if another trip to the Post Office will be in order to send the parcel to Perth.

Jackie drove us on to Milford on Sea for lunch in the Needles Eye cafe, from which the Isle of Wight and its Needles were not visible.

Gravel QuarryGravel quarry roadGravel quarry road 2

Passing through Downton we stopped to investigate the entrance to a quarry which was not far from our new house. Gravel is being excavated a good distance from the house, and I was reassured by the gentleman on site who, reasonably enough, wondered why I was taking photographs.

Seagulls squbblingSeagulls victorious

There are a number of posts along the beach at Milford on Sea bearing notices warning of underwater obstruction. Each of these when we arrived was occupied by a gull. One of these perches was in dispute. The resident was assailed by two rivals. A noisy three for all ensued.Seagulls squabbling in the air Before the argument was settled it was continued on the wing. When the victor reclaimed its throne it kept swivelling its head around, keeping alert and ready to repel further boarders. In case you didn’t know, the collective noun for seagulls is a squabble.

After lunch we drove back through Downton and stopped off to visit Apple Court Nursery and Garden which is very near where our new home will be. Rightly termed ‘one of Hampshire’s loveliest gardens’ it is a well established all the year round garden on which the owners and staff were working in earnest. Only open from March to October on Fridays, weekends and bank holidays, we will certainly visit it again. Jackie found it particularly helpful in learning what is likely to thrive in our new garden. The answer is most plants that like a neutral soil. Today we saw a quantity of spring bulbs, camellias, magnolias, and euphorbia.CarpCarp abstract

Particularly impressive was the Japanese garden with its small lake filled with monstrous carp.

Back home I dined on chilli con carne (recipe) whilst Jackie enjoyed a tamer chicken curry (recipe). I drank Campo Viejo rioja 2012.

Inky Fingers

Regent Street lights maintenance 12.63 Regent Street lights maintenance 12.63 - Version 2In December 1963 the lights in Regent St were treated to general maintenance or maybe just the attention of a window cleaner from his gondola.  I was able to capture this for today’s advent picture. Anyone who has received a handwritten missive from me will know that:Fountain pen Inky fingerThis does sometimes  result in unfortunate inky fingers, and is awkward for anyone left-handed attempting to add her signature to a Christmas card which still bears wet lettering, but I think nostalgia is worth the risk.

If your fingers do become pigmented in this way, and you are using blue ink, it is advisable not, unless you have a knife and fork to hand, to accept a Welsh rarebit made with Cheddar cheese, otherwise the topping is quite quickly inclined to resemble Stilton.  Incidentally this selfie (a word too up-to-date for my last year’s iMac, which insisted on underlining it in red), took a certain amount of sinister dexterity.

If you drop a full bottle of washable writing fluid down the trousers of your best dry clean only suit, that gives you a real problem when the professionals can’t eradicate it.  Four years ago mine had to be written off altogether.  That, of course, required no ink.

Back to the point.  Although I write my cards with a fountain pen, I normally address the envelopes in biro in case it rains.  The ink for the pen is washable, so it will run if it gets wet and the sorting office won’t be able to decide where to send the envelope.  At midday today I was to regret having deviated from my normal practice yesterday in order to avoid crossing the room for a ballpoint.  This is because I walked down to the postbox in steady rain to deliver another batch of cards to the box at Seamans Lane.  I had to find a little plastic bag in which to wrap them.

On Running Hill a certain amount of feller’s debris on the tarmac; a new heap of logs, and a gap in the foliage, on the verge suggested another tree had come down during last night’s powerful winds.  As usual, it had been removed post haste.

There is probably nothing more disappointing for someone who has spent all day setting up festive lighting than to find a set failing when switching them on the next morning.  Especially when that particular string is about ten feet off the floor.  This, of course is what happened.  Close inspection revealed that the transformer was faulty.  Although the bulbs were fine, you can’t buy a transformer without another set of these. Hall decorations So, especially as Helen had suggested we may not have enough lights, a replacement was required.  Off, therefore, we figuratively trotted to Totton where we bought some more in the Poundstretcher shop.  And a few more things, while we were there, in Lidl.

Once the repair job had been completed Jackie decorated the hall in a similar vein.

This evening Family House in Totton were hosting a private function.  We were unable to go there and settled for the Lotus Chinese restaurant in New Milton which Jackie once patronised with her mother.  She remembered it from ten years ago as providing not first rank, but good enough, food circa 1956.  Nothing, apparently had changed, except that there may have been more layers of grime on the higher positioned ornaments.

They do not stand on ceremony at Lotus; more a question of lying down on it.  Not until we were leaving did the rather taciturn yet friendly-ish waiter reveal himself to be quite a conversationalist.  Neither possessed of a trolley nor long arms, he brought out each item of food individually and dumped them on the table.  The starters of splendid spare ribs and prawn toast made up for what was lacking in presentation; as did the prawn chop suey; sweet and sour pork; beef in black bean sauce; and special fried rice.  We drank T’sing Tao beer which came in small bottles plonked alongside half pint glasses embossed with the word Strongbow.  I settled for one drink because to have asked for another would have involved disturbing the one staff member’s newspaper reading, and that didn’t seem quite fair.

As we entered, our host had turned on a portable CD player so that we could be entertained by a lilting soprano voice which was much more pleasant than the shriller version it might have been.  When it got a bit wobbly just before the end, he rose from his chair and set it back at the beginning.

Admittedly it was a wet early Sunday evening, but we were the only diners.  On the positive side, the two men who came in for takeaway meals knew the waiter well and had good talks with him.  On our departure he asked if we were local, and pressed for my former mother-in-law’s name because he said he knew those of most of his customers.  He was the man Jackie remembered, but Mum Rivett didn’t go there on her own.

Lyndhurst lights

Driving through Lyndhurst on our way home, we admired the Christmas lights, nicely enhanced by the wet roads.

Wait!

Watching birds arriving at Jackie’s feeding station this morning, I was struck by the different approaches they exhibit.  The tits perform an undulating swoop across the sweeping lawns, reminiscent of Ducks and Drakes.  It is as if they bounce on thermals much as children’s flat stones do on still water surfaces during the game of that name. Robins pop up from anywhere.  Bright yellow-billed blackbirds, perhaps too large for the feeders, patrol the surface of the box hedge beneath the containers, picking up fallen scraps.  This is exactly what the pigeons do on the grass at The Firs.

After coffee I walked to Lyndhurst via Mill Lane and the A337; and back through Emery Down. Gorse Gorse, of course, flowers throughout the year, but the sunlight on a bright day such as this bestows a golden glow to the shrubs.

All around our new environment there are permanent road signs warning of queues ahead. Traffic queue A337 Easily outpacing vehicles headed for Lyndhurst as early in the year as 2nd April, I received an inkling of what we will experience in the high season.

My main purpose in visiting Lyndhurst was to collect the euros for my forthcoming trip to Sigoules.  The NatWest bank in the town is situated on a very dangerous corner bend. On emerging from the door of the building it is impossible to see what is coming round on the near side from your right.  There is a traffic island offering some refuge for people wanting to cross here and walk up the hill that is the main street.  The best approach is to wait for a gap in the stream of cars, walk to the kerb, lean forward, crane round, then nip across, hoping for the best.  I had reached the nipping across stage and made it halfway to the refuge when a cry of ‘wait!’ somewhat startled me.  Well, I was committed.  There was no turning back.  And something in the tone suggested that it was unlikely that the cry was addressed to me.  As I dived onto the secure area I came face to face with our neighbours Ari and Jackie.  Their little brown miniature dachshund seemed to have been rather to keen to go to the bank.  Replying to Ari’s question as to my well-being, I said ‘I’m fine now I’ve got across the road.  When I heard your ‘wait!’,  I thought ‘what? what?’.

Before Becky, Ian, and Scooby left for Mitcham, leaving Flo to spend more time with us, we all dined on Jackie’s chicken curry followed by apricot and rhubarb crumble.  I drank Kingfisher, Ian drank Peroni, and Flo drank milk.