Cold Soup

Jackie took advantage of the early morning sunlight to photograph

a variety of colourful daffodils;

a striking range of hellebores;

a bee probing pulmonaria;

my dwarf azalea, still thriving after twenty years and several moves;

pale yellow primroses

and their brighter primula relatives;

mahonias,

companula,

wood anemones,

summer snowflakes;

and burgeoning tulips blending with light blue pansies.

When Jackie delivered my muddy red jacket to White’s cleaners last week she was diverted by the purchase of a weighty brass owl, now perched on a lurching post. Its relatives may be glimpsed throughout the beds.

We collected the dry cleaning this afternoon and went on to visit Mum, who, although not quite aware of the global nature of the pandemic, is certainly fully au fait with the precautions at Woodpeckers and the reason for them. Conversation included Spanish flu and the death of Mum’s aunt Holly.

We were required to wash our hands on arrival when our temperatures were taken and pronounced perfect.

As we approached Brockenhurst we spotted a contented pony enjoying the now familiar New Forest vichyssoise soup.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent cottage pie; crisp Yorkshire pudding, sweet potatoes, cauliflower carrots, and broccoli: and tender runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Marlborough Pinot Noir 2016.

Nature’s Umbrellas

Storm Jorge is not due to hit us until tomorrow. Just to get us in the mood, dispiritingly drizzly rain seeped from solid slate skies throughout the day. Even heavy rain would have been more stimulating.

Mostly I read, except when I donned a raincoat and wandered around the garden testing my camera’s imperviousness to the water that

glistened all surfaces

and bejewelled crocuses sagely keeping closed;

camellias on the bushes and

on the ground;

head-bent hellebores –

even those standing proud.

I realised today why these flowers invariably hang their heads.

They come equipped with their own umbrellas.

Daffodils,

primroses,

and mahonias brighten

the beds.

Raindrops cling to boughs until sliding down to drop to the ground.

This evening we dined at The Wheel Inn. Portions are so plentiful that we both opted simply for mains. Jackie enjoyed the thick, meaty house burger with chips and salad while I chose beer battered cod, chips and peas with tartar sauce. The crispy batter was better than most fish and chip shops could produce. Mrs Knight drank Kaltenberg and I drank Rioja.

 

Mud-caked

I have to acknowledge that I seem to be out of step with more regular reviewers of The Favourite which we watched on Prime after dinner yesterday.

I am not competent to comment on the historical accuracy of this story of the last years of Queen Anne, a very sad eighteenth century English monarch; nor for the depiction of Court life of the period. But maybe that is not the point of the film which focusses on the battle between two women for the position of Royal Favourite.

The three stars of Yorgos Lanthimos’s alleged tragicomedy offer undoubtedly excellent performances. Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz certainly deserved their awards. Emma Stone was also very good. Unfortunately, although one could sympathise with each of them in their own struggles I found it impossible to like any single character in the film.

It was an assault on the senses, not least for dirge-like banging music(?) and weird cinematography seemingly making use of a fish-eye lens and dizzying panning effects. Tragic, yes. Comic, not for me. Maybe I just don’t find it easy to laugh at people who are struggling.

Today was another of unceasing gloom.

This morning we each took our cameras into the garden at different times.

 

My pansies were photographed in the front garden, Jackie’s, somewhat nibbled, at the back;

Jackie photographed bright magenta cyclamen while I pictured the stone cherub reclining  against the tree trunk beside them;

the first two pelargonium images are Jackie’s;

two more are mine;

The Head Gardener produce her own photos of her pelargonium cuttings in the greenhouse;

she also photographed her stumpery, with watching owls and brown grasses;

vinca;

bergenia;

hebe;

viburnum;

mahonia;

cineraria;

 

euphorbias Silver edge and Rubra;

and primulas.

I contributed a range of camellias.

Soon after lunch we drove into the soggy forest, where the green at Bramshaw has been ploughed up by the hooves of

 

mucky sheep;

dismal donkeys;

and mud-caked cattle.

We each photographed a weather vane. Jackie’s bore Father Time,

mine a pair of geese.

A pair of riders road past.

Nearby a robin tweeted to one of a trio of

miniature be-rugged ponies.

Further on, approaching Newbridge we encountered

another herd of cattle. The second of these two photographs of Jackie’s includes a redwing and a crow, two of the avian entourage

accompanying the bovines.

Here is a redwing

and a wagtail.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy chicken Jalfrezi, savoury rice, vegetable samosas, and parathas with which I finished the Garnacha Syrah while the Culinary Queen abstained.

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s Mrs Nugget?

Jackie planted a clutch of primulas this morning.

While she was at it she kept tabs on the winter flowering clematis Cirrhosa Freckles,

and the mahonia that has grown into a tree.

She observed an encounter between a snail and an owl;

and admired the burgeoning Daphne Odorata Marginata and the

Chilean lantern tree.

By far the most exciting discovery, however, was that Nugget had become exceedingly frisky, as was his companion who followed him around.

Yes.

A Mrs Nugget has arrived.

“Where’s Mrs Nugget” in this picture? It is only fair to say that she is not on the feeder, and has her back to us. The Assistant Photographer worked very hard to capture them both in the same shot.

Today I finished reading

Because of the proliferation of pictures in this volume I could do no more that scan them before we set off to The Darbar restaurant in Emsworth where we were to dine with Becky and Ian. I will describe the book and feature the illustrations tomorrow.

We were given a pleasant surprise in that Miche also joined the party and the enjoyable conversation over the meal.

I chose a goat curry the name of which I cannot remember; Jackie’s pick was paneer shashlik. We all shared onion bhajis while Jackie and I shared mushroom rice and a plain paratha. We both drank Cobra, along with Ian and Miche. Becky enjoyed a pomegranate cocktail.. I’m not sure what the others ate.

On our return home we were sent off a closed section of the M27 and diverted into the centre of Portsmouth from which, so confusing were the diversion signs, it took us an hour to escape. The consequence is that it is now 11.15 p.m.

 

 

Backing Up

Knowing that we were to expect further stormy weather today, Jackie helpfully took her camera into the garden at dusk yesterday and photographed

primulas,

cyclamens,

bergenia,

hellebores,

camellias,

clematis cirrhosa Freckles,

a pelargonium,

a mahonia with accompanying New Zealand flax,

snowdrops,

and Daphne odorata marginata all in bloom.

The Generous Gardener rose set to climb the recently heavily chopped cypress has taken well.

While she was at it the Assistant Photographer also added a fern owl for Pauline’s benefit.

Just about avoiding the rain that was to follow we drove early into the forest.

On Barrows Lane a row of daffodils were already in flower.

We were, yer honour, proceeding at a gentle speed along the narrow, winding Lower Mead End Road when

distant headlights reflecting on the wet tarmac alerted us to the approach of an oncoming vehicle,

As always in such a situation someone has to back up. Jackie is of the opinion that this is very rarely a BMW driver. So it proved today. My Chauffeuse did the gentlewomanly (You are chauvinist, WP – I did not type gentlemanly) thing and reversed until there was some degree of passing space.

Polite waves were exchanged as the gentleman in the other vehicle sailed by and we continued driving through the pools ahead.

The woodland and Boundary obscured grazing ponies,

yet cattle were quite visible among the moorland gorse.

You could be excused for imagining that this picture of Sway Tower against streaky pastel skies was produced either at sunset or sunrise. In fact it was 11 a.m.

After lunch Jackie brought back my first Easter egg from Tesco’s where these delicacies had been on sale for at least a week. Like the pictures that began this post her intention had been that I might like to “put it on the blog”.

This evening we dined on succulent roast beef, crisp Yorkshire pudding, creamy potato and swede mash, and firm, tasty, Brussels sprouts and carrots with which I drank more of the Garnacha Syrah and Jackie drank Maury 2013.

 

How He Hinders

In yesterday’s fading evening light Jackie photographed

her helianthuses Lemon Queen, complete with bee, against the phormium and mahonia reaching for the gentle sky.

Today’s skies resembled damp fleece and the air was fairly breezy. She spent the morning attempting to get on with her planting. She managed two in as many hours, including a

delicate blue and white petrovskia and an ailing

similarly hued campanula.

You might have a couple of questions about this. Why still planting new additions? And why ailing specimens? That is because this is the season that the garden centres are virtually giving away stocks and Jackie operates an excellent floral hospital service. Not only that, but the need for soil replenishment in preparation for the winter means that multiple trips to buy compost are required and it is not possible to pass up special offers whilst she is at it.

A further question might be why at the rate of just one per hour? This is where her little friend comes in.

He has various hampering techniques.

Whenever she digs a hole he plants himself on it;

whenever she tackles a root he offers assistance;

he dives between her legs;

and is continually under her feet.

Now, “Where’s Nugget?” (20).

Apart from a short break for her own lunch, Jackie spent the entire day in the company of her little robin.

This evening, while Nugget tucked into mashed peanuts outside the back door, the real humans dined on Jackie’s flavoursome liver and bacon casserole with champ and cabbage, with which she drank Blue Moon and I drank more of the Shiraz.

Rearing Hellebores

CLICK ON ANY IMAGE IN A GROUP TO ACCESS ITS GALLERY, INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF WHICH CAN BE VIEWED FULL SIZE BY SCROLLING DOWN AND CHECKING BOX AT BOTTOM RIGHT

The first clear sky at dawn for some time promised a sunny day which was appreciated by the garden, especially the winter flowering cherry that has been blooming for seven months now.

Sunshine, shadows, and birdsong returned to the garden paths.

Cryptomeria and eucalyptus trees from the antipodes brightened considerably.

Some of the hellebores even reared their heads.

Bright yellow mahonia blended with paler daffodils.

Although those nearer the soil were a little mud-spattered, primulas that had drooped a little now stood proud.

This afternoon Margery and Paul paid a visit as congenial as ever.

Afterwards Jackie drove me to catch the last post at Everton Post Office and on into the forest. Much of the terrain was still waterlogged, but the ford at Brockenhurst was dry.

Beef pie meal

This evening we dined on the second half of the smaller of Jackie’s splendid beef pies; served with crisp carrots and Brussels sprouts; and saut√©ed potatoes, peppers, and onions. I drank Serabel Lirac 2015.