Hunting In Pairs

“The Bishop” was the penultimate story that Anton Chekhov wrote while seriously ill with tuberculosis from which he died at the age of 44. This is a deeply emotional tale of the main character’s life and death, and his effect on family, prelates, and congregations alike. I finished reading it last night, and with it my Folio Society 1974 edition of translator Elisaveta Fen’s selection from the author’s prolific output of short stories.

Fen’s introduction to the book is informative and insightful. She includes a specific section for each story and it was interesting, after almost half a century in which to forget my first reading, to study these pieces after I had revisited their relevant story and to compare my thoughts with hers.

Nigel Lambourne’s occasional full page aquatints are well drawn, but on the heavy side for some of the characters.

It is perhaps appropriate that ‘ ‘Don’t disturb His Eminence,’ Sisoy told Maria’ should be the last of these illustrations.

Much of this warm day was spent on continuing garden maintenance consisting of weeding, pruning, dead heading; and bagging up for removal or adding to the compost bin all the resultant refuse.

Towards the end of the afternoon, while Jackie, sharing views with Florence sculpture, surveyed the fruits of our labour, I wandered round with my camera.

Hanging baskets and other containers now bear, for example, various petunias, geraniums, cineraria, calendulas, hot lips, Erigeron and their shadows.

As can also be seen in the foreground of the Florence picture above, geranium palmatum is prolific throughout the garden. One of our Rosa Glauca bushes blends nicely with the geranium in the first of this pair of photographs.

Here are a few more of our various day lilies, the first bearing a hoverfly.

I traverse paths like the one named Gazebo quite regularly. Today I also ambled along the Back Drive and selected for attention

roses white Félicité Perpétue; a yellow climber; pink Doris Tysterman; paler pink rose from Ringwood’s Pound Shop; and rich red Ernest Morse.

Wedding Day is now coming into flower on the Agriframes Arch which it shares with a deep mauve clematis.

Magpies hunt in pairs in our garden. This evening, as we took our drinks on the patio, the enjoyable, sweet, birdsong was interrupted by

the raucous rasp of these predators communicating their casing of the joint from the branches of the copper beech. All of a sudden they took wing and sped off in another direction. Soon our own avian friends came back to life.

Our dinner consisted of chicken marinaded in a tangy mango and chilli sauce topped with yellow and green peppers and onions; new potatoes; firm cauliflower, and tender green beans, with which Jackie drank more of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and I chose more of the Australian Cabernet Sauvignon.

“I’ll Have A Copy Of That”

Despite yesterday’s rain the Head Gardener drove to Otter Nurseries clutching vouchers for special offers of seven different items. One of these was for 10 fifty litre bags of compost. The helpful staff had stuffed these all into the Modus. Unfortunately they did not offer to unload them at this end. That was my task this morning. I piled them up beside the shed, then staggered inside for a sit down.

Today had dawned as dry, bright, and sunny as yesterday was wet and dreary.

Jackie entered the garden in order to photograph Eric the pheasant. He immediately scarpered, so she cast her camera lens onto the plants.

These cranesbill geranium leaves bear a slight dusting of last night’s light frost.

 

One of Eric’s little games is to decapitate daffodils. He missed those in these three pictures.

Fallen camellia blooms enhance the third composition. Others remain on the shrubs.

 

 

New clematis shoots cling to the weathered iron gazebo, preparing to supersede

winter-flowering Cirrhosa Freckles;

These blue pansies will soon be supplanted by their pot-sharing tulips.

Pink hyacinths,

magenta cyclamens.

two-tone comfrey,

and cream hellebores brighten beds.

Spring is the season for nest-building and incubating eggs. It is prime poaching period for predatory magpies.

On the lookout for potential prey one of these plumed pests perches atop a blighted oak on the other side of Christchurch Road.

Later this afternoon Jackie drove us into the forest.

On Shirley Holms Shetland ponies grazed in the soggy landscape

which was waterlogged in parts, a number of reflective pools having been recently created

on the wooded side, the drier sections of which were littered by fallen branches,

beech nuts,

and their leaves.

On my way back to the car I photographed an equestrienne approaching us.

As she drew near she smilingly exclaimed “I’ll have a copy of that”.

“What’s your address?” I enquired.

“I’ll take it off your blog” she replied. It was only then that I realised that the beaming face beneath the unfamiliar helmet was that of Anne of Kitchen Makers.

So I felt the need to produce a close-up of her astride her splendid steed.

Beside Church Lane at Boldre lay a recently uprooted tree in a field occupied by

horses wearing rugs to protect them from the overnight temperatures currently slipping below freezing.

Daffodils surrounded the Church of St John the Baptist, in the graveyard of which

a photographer shepherded his subjects.

A gaggle of geese now occupied Pilley lake;

Hatchet Heath harbours more than its normal quota of ponds;

and swans smoothly glide on the slopes of East Boldre.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s juicy chicken jalfrezi and savoury rice with plain parathas accompanied by Hoegaarden in the case of the Culinary Queen and the last of the Cabernet Sauvignon in mine.

 

 

 

 

The New Generation

This morning I made a print of this photograph for Danni. I took it at Louisa’s fourth birthday party in May 1986, featuring Ella’s mother just seven months older than Ella is now.

Elizabeth, Danni, and Ella came to lunch, which is why I produced this picture.

Grandmother, mother, and daughter played on the sofa while we all chatted before tucking into the splendid array of cold meats, pies, cheeses, coleslaw, and salad produced by Jackie. The new generation of Keenan motherhood displays the same exploratory concentration as the previous one.

After lunch we visited Highcliffe Castle.

Rhododendrons and giant redwoods are among the shrubs and trees in the grounds,

around which fearless magpies stride.

There is even a view of the Isle of Wight and The Needles.

This evening we reprised lunch with which I finished the Carmenere and Jackie drank Hoegaarden.

Feeding The Birds (1)

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There was much electricity in the skies overnight, but none in the house. It was all required for a spectacular thunderstorm. From the news this morning it was apparent that we were very fortunate. Even in Christchurch, about eight miles away, a house was struck by lightning, and in other parts of the country many people woke up to continuing power cuts.

Skyscape

By late afternoon, when we were on a driveabout, the skies had broken up, but still looked dramatic.

Before then, I had filled two more of our large bags with chopped up branches, and we had taken them to the dump.

Bee on dahlia

As before, bees had worked alongside me.

Following a roundabout route, we found ourselves at Hatchet Pond where

Donkey 1

donkeys basked

Donkey 2Donkey 3Donkey 4

or foraged.

The youngster snoozing by the Lyme disease poster is quite appropriately positioned, because, although the ticks carrying this very nasty complaint inhabit the forest grasses and shrubs, they are also carried by the donkeys.

The two adults seem so much more elegant than many of the asses found wandering in the National Park that we wondered whether they might be mules.

Feeding birds

A family by the lakeside had come to feed the birds,

Gulls in flight 1Gulls in flight 2

which became very excited at the prospect;

A squabble of seagulls

in particular, when watching them fight over breadcrumbs, we were given plentiful evidence of why the collective noun for seagulls is a squabble.

Feeding birds and donkeys 1Feeding birds and donkeys 2

The donkeys turned up for their share,

Donkeys and family

and became quite persistent.

Magpie and gull

A magpie also tried its luck, until being seen off by a gull.

Thatcher's donkey

Not far away, in Furzey Lodge, a thatcher’s donkey has found its way onto a roof;

Furzey Lodge pound

and the agisters’ pound is dedicated to Jeffrey Kitcher,  M.B.E. : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/8646105/Jeff-Kitcher.html

This evening we dined on chicken breasts in sweet chilli sauce, Jackie’s onion rice topped by an omelette, and runner beans. I drank Old Crafty Hen.

A Good Arboreal Scratch

We enjoyed another bright and sunny day, albeit a little cooler. A light, short-lived frost had left strings of pearls around our early flowers including

Hellebore

hellebores I had overlooked yesterday,

Prunus pissardi 1Prunus pissardi 2

and prunus pissardi.

This afternoon I watched recorded highlights of last Sunday’s drawn rugby match between Ireland and Wales. This is a very rare result these days, and you have to go back 42 years to the last evenly scored game between these two teams.

After this, Jackie drove us to Ferndene Farm Shop where we bought three bags of compost; then meandered around the forest as far as Godshill and back along Roger Penny Way.

Cloudscape 1Cloudscape 2Cloudscape 3Cloudscape 4

Ponies and magpie

The sun romped in and out of the clouds in the ever-changing skies spilling light and shade over the heathland where well-fattened ponies, with their magpie acolytes, chomped their way across the turf.

Ponies crossing road

When these free-creatures of The New Forest fancied the grass would be greener on the other side, they wandered across the road, exercising their inalienable right to hold up the traffic.

Shattered fallen tree

The recent storms have brought down numbers of trees such as this oak, its trunk shattered, on the approach to Burley,

Oak tree

where another, more dead than alive, still stood,

Pony scratching

and where one pony left its companions foraging whilst it had a good arboreal scratch.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy chicken curry; savoury rice; and vegetable samosas and pakoras; followed by Sicilian lemon tart and evap. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank Fortnum & Mason Saint-Emilio grand cru 2011, given to me by Luci and Wolf for Christmas.

The Weather

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Early this morning we attended to bits of my body.

First, Jackie drove us to the GP surgery in Milford on Sea where I set in motion a long overdue referral for an orthopaedic assessment of my knees, and learned that I am on a list for a cataract adjustment to my left eye. I should be fully bionic soon. Next was a visit to our dental hygienist for a routine treatment.

We then returned to Hockey’s Farm Shop for a box of eggs we had left on the table yesterday.

Today the weather was decidedly soggy with occasional rain. Just one pony appeared to have ventured out. As it struggled to find nourishment along the verges of Holmsley Road it must have regretted the lack of

one of the rugs its more pampered field residents were still wore. They didn’t all even have to find their own food.

These latter animals were kept at South Gorley, so let us here return to Holmsley Road, the forest floors on either side of which are now full of temporary pools covering the terrain and reflecting branches, trunks, and mossy roots.

Crossing the A35 we come to Holmsley Passage, bordered with its own pools of precipitation and wind-blasted branches.

A woman with a dog strode down the hill and across the swollen ford just in time to enhance my photographs.

At Gorley Lynch, light rain seeped from silver-grey skies, supplementing ditchwater flowing across the crumbling road, and brightening moss on the thatch of the house alongside the farm café. This was in stark contrast to the cerulean canvas that had covered the building the day before. Note the mistletoe in the tree. There is much of it about the forest.

This evening we dined on Hockey’s Farm hot and spicy pickled onions accompanying Mr Pink’s fish and chips, and pineapple fritters in Lyle’s golden syrup. I drank Don Lotario gran reserva Navarra 2009.

Sets

An unseen bird in a neighbouring garden has, for some time now kept up an incessant, repetitive, day-long warning cry. This is no doubt related to the fact that a possibly predatory crow patiently waits perched on the branch of a high tree. Perhaps awaiting a chance to plunder eggs, or to pounce on newly hatched chicks? Yesterday evening Jackie clapped her hands and shooed off the vigilant avian. As soon as it flew off the other bird became silent.
Two days ago a magpie was spotted in our garden, suspiciously close to the blackbird’s nest.
Empty nestThis morning the nest was empty, only its cleanliness and two downy feathers attached to a twig, indicating any occupation. There were no broken shells. Sadly, on little more than circumstantial evidence we suspect either crow or magpie of theft of the eggs.
Today I finished weeding yesterday’s bed. In the process, I found a honeysuckle and several more passion flower plants entwined among the other plants. BambooTrying not to replicate the McDonalds logo, I erected my own golden arches out of bamboo to give the climbers something else to scale. Perhaps the honeysuckle was seeded from this wonderfully scented specimen, bordering the kitchen garden: Honeysuckle                                   Jackie has continued her creative work. WaterboyThe water boy is now well established in his little corner, complete with more shells and planting.Granite sets and bricksGranite sets and bricks 2Path tidied
She is now focussing on further improving the edging of the paths. In many instances, the earlier brick edges have been covered by stones and granite sets. These have tended to be obscured by covering plants, and have not stemmed the flow of soil into the gravel.  Sieving the earth from the gravel, and placing the bricks on their sides lifts the edges.
Granite setsGranite edgingThe sets will be used elsewhere, where they attractiveness is more apparent. We began with the border between the patch of grass and the long path. I was the labourer to Jackie’s artisan. This meant I searched out more sets, loaded them onto a wheelbarrow, brought them to the mistress craftsperson, placed them roughly where she would need them, and ambled off for some more. Some, in the furthest regions, were covering ants’ nests.
We didn’t quite finish the job before preparing for a visit to Danni and Andy’s new flat. Jackie drove us over to Shirley, where it is; we were joined there by Elizabeth, and all dined at a very good Indian restaurant nearby, the name of which I did not register. We all enjoyed the food; Andy drank Magners, and the rest of us, Kingfisher.
 

Conversations

Mrs. Reynard is looking most uncomfortable lately.  Perched on her pile of sticks this morning, she was gnawing away at her rear end, which is now on one side completely devoid of fur.  The patch the magpie was pecking on 26th. May (see post) is now rather raw.

On my normal route to Colliers Wood to catch the tube for lunch with Norman, in Morden Hall Park, I met Benjamin and his mother.  This eloquent and cheerful little chap was on a dinosaur hunt.  He was taking his task very seriously and wanted to know if I’d seen one, especially ‘a big one’.  He declined to produce his hunting roar for the photograph.  Perhaps because I am not a dinosaur, although some people may quibble with that.  Well, Benjy, I didn’t see a dinosaur, but I did find a very big slug.  His picture is at the top of this page.

One of the most amusing regular announcements on the Underground was given out at Green Park.  A long list of severe or minor delays is intoned.  This is always followed by: ‘There is a good service on all other lines.’  ‘Which are they?’, I ask myself.

Seated reading on a bench near the mainly Somali area of Harlesden, I picked up one cent of an euro, thinking it might come in handy in the Sigoules supermarket.  I hoped it wasn’t a Greek one.  It was fortunate that I wasn’t on my feet, for these days I wouldn’t bend down for anything less than a tenner.  I remembered once diving for a ten-bob note at a bus stop in Worple Road in case Chris got there first.  For anyone too young to remember, that’s 50p in today’s money.  But, then, you could do a great deal more with it.

A middle-aged woman came and talked to me.  She began by saying I looked so peaceful that if she had a camera she would photograph me.  I hoped she wouldn’t notice the one hanging round my neck.  She went on to eulogise about the beauty of the thousand year old church that lay behind me.  She spoke of recent renovations, and I realised that the graveyard is looking much better kept these days.  It is a sad reflection of our times that the building was not open for my inspection.  She was on her way to visit her father, now suffering from dementia, in a care home.  On her regular visits she does a lot of the feeding and caring herself.  This woman was not complaining and initially spoke appreciatively of her father’s carers.  She did, however, say it would be nice if they thanked her, because they were paying the full ‘feeding rate’.  According to her this former Southern Cross establishment has been taken over by a Methodist organisation.  It has a new manager who is trying to improve things.  From the sound of it she has her work cut out.  Once this daughter learned that I had been in Social Work she told me about some of the attitudes and systems she found problematic, asking me what I thought.  For example, did I think it unreasonable that he was not allowed to ‘poo’ until 11 a.m?  I most certainly did.  Apparently the staff would rather he ‘pooed in his pad’, which they could clean up afterwards, than disrupt other morning routines.  She felt that his personal dignity was suffering.  My beard didn’t put her off expressing her conviction that it was normal to want to shave every day.  Presumably there are days when her father can and cannot shave.

Norman served up a dish of delicious Catalan chicken accompanied by a fine rioja, and followed by apple strudel.  Perhaps not entirely by coincidence we discussed the writing of Iris Murdoch.  I have not read her philosophy, but have most of her novels, except the last.  This was so badly reviewed by critics who could not make any sense of it that I decided to give it a miss.  Some time later we learned that she was suffering from the same condition as my conversationalist’s father.  For anyone working with dementia the biopic ‘Iris’, starring Jim Broadbent as the long-suffering and somewhat bewildered husband, and Judi Dench as Iris, is essential viewing.  No-one living with the condition would need, or probably wish, to watch this fine portrayal of the slow realisation that all is not well and the gradual decline into frustrated helplessness.

This evening Jacqueline came over for meal, and, given that she had recommended the Watch Me to us, we just had to take her there.  The food was as good and reasonably priced as always.  As I don’t normally eat another meal after a Norman lunch, this was stretching it a bit for me.