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

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. REPEAT IF REQUIRED.

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

Those of my readers currently enjoying warm, or tolerating hot, summers in other parts of the world may not be aware of the weather we can normally expect in England less than a month away from our shortest day; and therefore be unable to appreciate the pleasant surprise we are now experiencing.

It was a springlike day as I took my Hordle Cliff top walk this morning. Ragged autumn Autumn leaves and rose hipsBlackberriesMushroomleaves and the more seasonal rose hips betrayed the true season, while fresh blackberry fruit belied it, as they each brightened the hedgerows; and mushrooms continued to flourish.Field

A magpie strutted about one of Roger’s fields. Like all avian predators, these birds normally Magpietake off at the approach of a human being, so I was lucky to obtain this shot, especially as it had its beady eye on me.

GrassNew grass, which will not grow at less than 10 degrees centigrade, was pushing its way up through fresh soil heaped around the posts of the recently replaced street lighting.

Camellia budsWe fear for our pink camellias, cajoled into producing unseasonal buds, for when the freezing frosts arrive, as they surely will, these must all perish.

Dog walkersGroup on shingleOn the cliff footpath and the shingle below, numerous dog walkers and family groups have been encouraged to emerge into the sunlight; and the charity books for sale outside a house on Booksthe way up to Shorefield, having recently given away to plants, are once more placed against the wall.

August 2014, normally the height of our summer, was one of the coldest on record, with some temperatures the lowest for 100 years. Perhaps all this goes some way to explaining why we Brits find the weather such a talking point.

Last night the air was so mild, and the Veranda so packed, that Jackie asked the waiting staff to open the windows beside our table. One of our favourite Hampshire Indian restaurants,the establishment coped brilliantly with the influx of customers flowing from the town’s Christmas shopping evening. The food was as good as ever. It was delivered promptly with efficiency and humour. This splendid eating place could not, however, have bettered the Old Post House chicken jalfrezi and delicious egg fried rice that Jackie produced this evening. This is not grovelling flannel, it is a genuine fact. The meal was completed with New York cheesecake. Jackie drank Peroni and I chose Saint Vigni Cotes du Rhone 2012.

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.