Part of Mum’s deal at Woodpeckers Care home is that she can entertain guests to lunch once a week.

Elizabeth, Jackie, and I were her visitors today. My meal was Cajun chicken with Lyonnaise potatoes, carrots, and curly kale; the others opted for gammon. Mum chose stewed apricots with ice cream for dessert; the rest of us enjoyed plum crumble. We were served in our own quiet room. Service was friendly and efficient. The food was very good.

Afterwards, Jackie and I took a trip around the forest.

It is not unusual to see requests for information about hit and run accidents involving ponies. This, featuring a Shetland on the road to Beaulieu, was one of two we passed today.

Although much of it has been cut back by now, blackthorn has proliferated in the hedgerows for several weeks now.

As we rounded a bend on approaching East End we were struck by this fortuitous juxtaposition of maple and photinia.

Nearby one of a group of basking cattle suckled her calf which was enjoying its own lunchtime.

Donkeys were hard at work trimming the village’s hedgerows.

More cattle were serving themselves to lunch from the verges of Tanners Lane.

Beside Sowley Lane a flamboyant cock pheasant flashed across the road and fled beneath barbed wire fencing.

Another merged into hay stalks among scavenging crows beside a field of rape, many of which

are beginning to slash the landscape with sunlight.

More of the more colourful birds foraged in

this historic field with its

views across The Solent to the Isle of Wight.

This evening we dined on spicy Diablo pizza with plentiful fresh salad. Jackie drank more of the Sauvignon Blanc and I enjoyed Maipo Valley Carménere 2016 from the Majestic Definition range.

A Grinning Teenager


The skies wept all morning and were quite broken up by the time Jackie took me for a drive after lunch.

She parked by the roadside near Norley Wood for me to photograph the surroundings. To our right lay open forest, and to our left a couple of splendidly situated homes. The last picture in the group shows the necessary cattle grid that prevents roving ponies from investigating their grounds.

Throughout the local towns and villages lampposts sport large memorial poppies in tribute to those serving men and women who died in the First World War. On the outskirts of villages such as Burley.

Perambulating ponies with flanks like wet flannels, having interest neither in red poppies nor brighter maples, kept their noses to the grindstone.

 A pair of very large Gloucester Old Spot pigs penned in their field must have envied the spritely, grinning, ginger Tamworth teenager who outstripped me further along the road.

The morning’s rain had brought tears to the knitted poppies fixed to the Vaggs Lane gates to St Andrew’s Church. Incidentally, Aaron told us this morning that his mother had knitted many of those at St Mark’s, Pennington, featured three days ago.

This evening we dined on smoked haddock, piquant cauliflower cheese, creamy mashed potato, crisp carrots, and tender runner beans, with which Jackie and I drank Wairau Cove Sauvignon Blanc 2017 and Elizabeth drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Just After Sunset


The clear light of the last few days gave way today to a weaker sun seeking refuge behind shifting clouds. Jackie drove us to Ringwood where I bought some inks from Wessex Photo and she enjoyed a successful clothes shop at M & Co. We continued on into the North of the forest.

A splendid maple blended well with the tiles of a house in Ibsley.

From the bottom of Abbots Well Road I wondered how the cattle kept their footing on the  slopes of their hillside.

To the west over the moors on Roger Penny Way a feeble sun thought about sinking low; indigo clouds scudded across blue skies to the east.

We thought that would be the last of tonight’s sunset, until Jackie had the bright idea of aiming for Sway Tower. We just missed the hoped for phenomenon, but the pastel skies above the red-gold glimmer still had much to offer.

Elizabeth arrived home from her trip to Edinburgh and visiting Mum, just after us.

We dined on Jackie’s splendid steak and mushroom pie; creamy mashed potato; tasty gravy; and crisp carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli. Elizabeth and I drank Casillero del Diablo Malbec 2017. The Culinary Queen didn’t.



‘Communication Is The Key’


‘Every cloud’, we are told, ‘has a silver lining’. Sometimes this is difficult to see. This good outcome from my Broadband problems, however, became clear this morning when the very personable Mike Smith came to install a new phone line.

Firstly, the BT Openreach engineer climbed a ladder at the front of the house to work on the fixture on the eaves.

Health and Safety regulations meant that he was not permitted to climb the pole out in the street without someone in attendance to ensure that he did not come to grief. This was to be a colleague who needed to come from Fawley via Beaulieu where the road was closed.

This may have meant a certain amount of boring hanging about waiting for Andy, the other man to arrive. Not so. A treat was in store.

Mike had noticed that ‘someone was a photographer’. So was he. He has a Flickr account which he opened on my computer so that he could show me some of his superb work. He specialises in street photography, of which the site contains splendid examples. My shots above don’t do justice to these pictures. I recommend his site.

Naturally we had much to talk about. But eventually his support arrived and he had to get back to what I called “some real work”. Having climbed the ladder propped against our holly tree, helmetted, and hoisted, Mike did what he needed to do. Unfortunately there is a problem underground that requires the attention of a specialist team. Following our friend’s request this should be attended to in a couple of days.

Today’s title was Mike’s suggestion.

When visiting Bransgore yesterday, Jackie had noticed a splendid maple at the corner of St George’s Drive that she thought I would like to photograph. She drove me there this afternoon.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s luscious sausage casserole followed by her spicy pumpkin pie. The casserole was served with creamy mashed potatoes, crunchy carrots, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts; the pie with whipped cream. I drank Reserve des Tuguets madiran 2010.


Sisyphus Reincarnate

Front gravel pathToday dawned with fog, and remained overcast. Yesterday was apparently the warmest November day here since records began, and it wasn’t much cooler today.

Work continued in the front garden. We gravelled the widened side path with the last of the shingle left over from the back drive. My contribution was to transport barrow loads of the material for Jackie to rake smooth. I then brought down the sixteen bricks needed for a third pillar, and handed them to the artist who built it. Just in case anyone thinks these are marvellously cemented creations, they are dry brick pillars. Still marvellous, of course.Maple reshaped

Jackie reshaped the green maple near the patio.

Clippings pile

I added the branches to the growing heap now lining the back drive. This time, making a change from combustion, we intend to hire what Aaron calls a chipper to mulch them.

This afternoon we made a start on clearing the carpet of beech leaves, and weeds, in the rose garden, in preparation for composting the soil.

Derrick sweepin leaves

Observing how many leaves are still to fall, Jackie gave me the epithet Sisyphus Reincarnate.

Carpet rose pink

Behind the black bag in the bottom left of the picture spreads a pink carpet rose.


Penstemons, such as this delicate pastel pink, planted for variety among the roses, are thriving.

John blowing leaves

The first Sisyphus was John, who gardened at Minstead.

This evening we dined on roast belly of pork topped with mustard and almonds; crisp cauliflower and cabbage; and boiled potatoes. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and I drank Funnel Blower, a ‘dark vanilla porter’. This latter tasted of chocolate. Not a good idea.

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.



Hidden Treasures

Apparently septic tanks need pumping out twice a year. For anyone fortunate enough to be ignorant of these sewage dispensing systems they are installed for houses which are not linked to water mains drainage. Without these you would have to dig your own hole as in primitive camping. Lorraine, next door, had advised us to open up the lid of ours to inspect the level. We did. It was frighteningly high. A phone call will be required in the morning.

After this Jackie went back to her curtains and I set about planting.Back drive

The biggest problem of location is for the maidenhair or ginkgo tree. Although it is currently contained in a pot it can grow to 40 metres, which is quite high. The only possible place for this is in the corner of our back drive. Site for GinkoWhen inspecting the site I found a daunting number of brambles, nettles, old bits of wood and iron, and a good wooden compost bin completely obscured by the aforementioned plants. ‘Nah’, I thought, ‘I’ll do that another day.

As it was, in clearing spaces for the other items I did manage to put to bed, I probably cleared as much bramble, ivy, catch weed, and detritus as I would have done in the drive. But I did manage to re-home a peony, a fern, two hellebores, a weigela, three different succulents, and a rose.

ThistleRose transplanted & mapleI began with the rose. I thought. In fact I had to remove an enormous, no doubt ornamental thistle in order to replace it with this plant. Because every single new home for whatever species needed a similar clearance and more, the rose was actually the last planting I made at the end of the day. You could hardly see the little rose in the bed, but the maple that had been swamped by the spiky plant looked mightily relieved to have its space back.

FlyI did have a break for lunch and sat in a chair by the window playing on-line Lexulous. A faint, intermittent, buzzing attracted my attention. This proved to be a fly attempting to do back somersaults. I had noticed the sound earlier in the morning, but not identified its source. The creature had therefore spent some hours at this manoeuvre.

I took advice from the head gardener on positioning of specimens and placed them in their pots at the requisite sites. Unfortunately, I forgot two, which I will need to take care of tomorrow. Also unfortunately, this meant she came into the shrubbery under a large evergreen tree that I was clearing of brambles, and spotted a second shattered branch that had to come off. I then proceeded to teeter on top of a stepladder she held firmly, whilst I amputated the stricken arboreal limb.

ClematisThe clearing of that particular area revealed some hidden treasures, such as a different camellia now in bloom, and another splendid blue clematis that we think is ‘Beauty of Worcester’.Rose Further along on that side of the garden lies a decking platform close to which a magnificent red rose is now in bloom.

Chilli con carne & vegetable riceThis evening Jackie provided a marvellous vegetable rice (recipe) to accompany her chilli con carne (recipe). She drank Hoegaarden and I finished the rioja.