Nelson’s Column


Sam and Holly, Malachi and Orlaith arrived today to spend a few days towards the end of  their UK trip.

Malachi is a great reader, so his first visit was to the library from which I was happy to pass on to him a selection of books.

Sam and Malachi 1Sam and Malachi 2

Lexulous is the Scrabble-like game I play on line. He wanted to challenge me, so he and Sam needed to work out how to load it onto Sam’s device.

Sam and Malachi 3

First they operated together.

Malachi 1

Mal continued on his own.

Malachi 2

One of the advantages of having your opponent across the room is that you can give him the eye when you have him in trouble.

Orlaigh drawing 2Orlaigh drawing 1

Orlaith broke her arm falling from a climbing frame in Snowdonia, and has become a dab hand at working with just one. Take drawing for example. As she said,0 it was a good thing she hadn’t broken her drawing hand.

Sam and OrlaighOrlaigh 3Orlaigh 1Orlaigh 2

She was also able to take over the Lexulous game on Sam’s mobile phone.

Jackie and Malachi 1Jackie and Malachi 2Jackie and Malachi 3

Meanwhile Malachi was quick to learn the Bookworm game on Jackie’s p.c.

After this Sam took his son off to the library to practice his violin playing. The music was really very pleasant, as it drifted through the kitchen.

Orlaigh 6Orlaigh 4Orlaigh 5Orlaigh 5A

This left Jackie free to help Orlaith build a tower

Orlaigh and Nelson's columnOrlaigh 7

which, with the addition of the man himself in rodent form and black and white sheep as lions, she announced to be Nelson’s Column.

Desk with toys

If there are any glaring errors in this post, my excuse is that the tower, the mice, the sheep, and the numbers board were all transported to my desk where I was encouraged to play with them.

This evening we dined on Hordle Chinese Take Away fare, supplemented by fish fingers, cauliflower cheese, and strawberries and cream. Holly and I finished the malbec, Jackie drank Peroni, and Sam drank Doom Bar.

The Interknit.


We didn’t much feel like taking the Christmas decorations down last night, so left it at unplugging the lights. When you consider that the Head Decorator is also the Head Gardener, you will realise how daunting is this task.

Imagine our delight then, on coming down this morning, to find that leprechauns had been in and completed the job. Leprechauns in the forms of Becky and Ian, of course.

The pastel pink winter flowering cherry in the front garden now blends with the brightly coloured crab apples, which have not yet been finished off by the blackbirds, thrushes, and tits that still feast on them.

Becky has, in recent weeks, taught herself to knit on line – using what Matthew has termed the Interknit. She has, without the aid of patterns, produced a set of sample shoes for Poppy,

who took great delight on trying them on soon after she arrived with Mat this morning.

Poppy enjoys playing with the mice which have periodically featured on posts. She makes a beeline for them when she arrives. She is also fascinated by the chimes of the grandfather clock and the other striker in the kitchen.

Grandfather clock and mice

It therefore seemed appropriate for four of the mice to run up the clock.

Roast pork dinner

Matthew and Poppy had to leave soon after 4 p.m., so were unable to share the classic roast pork meal that Jackie served up, thus demonstrating a remarkable improvement in her health. She and Becky finished the Barcelino, and I began a very special médoc, Baron des Tours, given to me by Helen and Bill for Christmas.


Feeding The Birds (2)


Mat arrived with Poppy this morning. Our granddaughter was walking about and talking scribble. She was straight into toys.

She likes playing with the mice;

but was soon absorbed with the seal box and its fish contents, making lots of cooing noises.

Halloween Table

Stopping for beverages at Beaulieu Farm Shop, where there was an Halloween table on display


we took a packed lunch to Hatchet Pond so Poppy could see the gulls,

which Jackie began to feed with the stock of seed that Matthew had supplied.

It wasn’t long before the hopeful donkeys came over for what they saw as their share. They were even more interested when our lunch appeared. Matthew  correctly observed that that was why we were discouraged from feeding the asses..

Poppy wandered around clutching her food, which, naturally, was liberally smeared around her mouth.


A rather large fungus mushroomed through the turf.

Matthew feeding swan

Matthew used an interesting method of feeding the swans;

then took his daughter to look at the water.

He and Jackie then began a swinging game which had to be constantly repeated.

Thinking Poppy might like the tyre swing on Tanners Lane beach, we made that the next visit. She wasn’t happy with this swing, which was a little too advanced for her, but she was quite content to wobble about the shingle.

Yachts across Tanners Lane beach

Across The Solent we could see a string of yachts passing the Isle of Wight.

After our offspring had returned home, Jackie and I dined on her perfect pork paprika with wild rice, followed by chocolate eclairs. She drank Hoegaarden and I finished the shiraz.

Pasted To Their Neighbour’s Flanks

The veritable Christmas aroma of cinnamon and cloves that permeated the house this morning came from Jackie’s rice factory in preparation for Boxing Day.

Crib, mice and lambs

Anyone who has followed my ramblings for a while may be wondering what the mice have been up to this year. They have brought their lambs to venerate the crib.

This bright and sunny afternoon we drove to Barton on Sea for a closer examination, from sea level, of the crumbling cliffs.

Silhouetted photographer

Perched on a platform at the foot of the steps I had descended yesterday, a young man was silhouetted photographing the Isle of Wight. At my request he obligingly went through the motions again.


Beyond the stairway, a railed footpath leads down to the sea. It will be seen that yesterday’s theodolites have been removed. Such is the transient nature of photographic moments.

Warning signsCliffs

A barrier complete with warning signs closes to the public the path to the left of the railings. Only a year ago I regularly walked the two miles along the cliff top to Milford on Sea. I was told yesterday that this is now quite unsafe.

Building on clifftop

Rows of buildings close to the cliff edge show how tenuous is their tenure to the top.

Having grown up in post-war London I was, and still am, in some areas, familiar with remnants of the sides of terraced houses adhering to the on next door that went unscathed. Brickwork, wallpaper, staircases, doorways, fireplaces, and other skeletal structures remained as if pasted to their neighbours’ flanks.

Building protruding from cliff 1Building protruding from cliff 2Ruin on clifftop 1ruin on clifftop with scrubClifftop, brickwork, and scrub

That is what I thought of as I observed brickwork and piping protruding from the cliffside. Nature outstrips the Luftwaffe.

Beach access closed

This section of the beach is also out of bounds.

RocksBuildings on clifftop and rocks

Rocks are heaped around.

Breakwater marker

Red warning markers pierce the breakwaters.

Becky, Ian and Scooby; Mat, Tess, and Poppy all arrived this evening. Flo, in America, was remembered with fondness and tears. Christmas was beginning. Various forms of alcohol were imbibed, and Jackie and I drove off to Hordle Chinese Take Away for our dinner. I will not report on the meal, because you’ve read it all before, and I won’t be in a fit state later.

Conquering Everest

Soon after dawn this morning, a couple of sleek, dark, lean looking adult starlings led a pair of fluffy fat fledglings onto the roof above their nest. A friendly young blackbird, like the lonely child watching others playing, attempted to join the group. It was chased off by Mum and Dad. Naturally I dashed, such as I can, downstairs for my camera. By the time I returned the birds had flown. We miss them already. Later, Jackie tackled further tidying of the beds surrounding the Heligan Path. I helped a bit, and a bit more in erecting a third arch along The Brick Path. This consisted of nailing an old piece of timber to the dead snake bark maple. We trained the clematis Montana, now devoid of flowers, onto the strut, which we hope will be met by one recently planted at the foot of the tree.Brick path and arches Jackie training clematis Montana Arches on brick pathRose peach climber To the left of this third photograph can be seen a scented peach coloured climbing rose which, seeking the light now available, doesn’t appear to want to join the white rose and clematis adorning the Gothic arch, and now rambles elsewhere. Planting around dead snake bark maple

This afternoon, Jackie planted up the cleared section around the dead tree.

Rose garden paving stage 2 While we were thus engaged A.P. Maintenance, in the form of Aaron and his Dad, Dave, continued laying the brick paving in the projected rose garden. This curve perfectly reflects that of the much older Heligan Path with which it links. Mice conquering Everest Conquering Everest 2015 Those of you who have been following for a while may have wondered what the peripatetic mice have been up to recently. They, and their sheep, now cast as Sherpas, are attempting a conquest of Everest. The base camp has been set up in front of a portrait Jackie drew of her mother many years ago. One rodent perches atop an approach peak that is one of Giles’s stained glass creations, on which flies a flag proclaiming ‘Conquering Everest 2015’. Our double-glazed windows were installed by a well-known firm who claim to fit the best. Get it? We dined this evening on Jackie’s sublime sausage casserole, crisp carrots and cabbage, and creamy mashed potatoes, followed by pineapple sponge pudding and evap. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Louis de Camponac merlot 2014.


This morning I added three informative Facebook link comments, one from Becky, one from Lesley O’Neill, and one from Jackie herself, to yesterday’s post.Mice suffragettes

Some of you will remember the nomadic mice from Christmas. Having joined the suffragette mousement, they have now taken up a position on the sitting room window sill.Pheasant

Albeit out of focus and through an upstairs window pane, I was today able to shoot the pheasant which was wandering around the garden as if he owned it. In an attempt to take a clearer photograph, I then walked out into the garden. By this time it was nowhere to be seen, until it squawked, flapped, and lumbered off like the R101, from the next door jungle.


Before lunch we drove to Molly’s Den in search of a birthday present, and bought, at a good price, a hand-woven Afghan rug from Khiva for ourselves. The design apparently dates from the 18th century.Downton Lane pines and number 27Downton Lane oaks

This afternoon I set off to walk down Downton Lane. I got no further than Roger’s footpath before retracing my steps to the back drive where I had noticed I had a job to to. Number 27 and its pines basked in the sunshine, as did the still naked oaks.CrocusesPeriwinkle

We now have yellow crocuses and a spread of periwinkles of various types. A crow took off from our mature copper beach, itself still leafless.CrowInsect hotel remains

Most of the insect Hilton hotel rooms have now been stolen. Perhaps, given the number of wood burning fires in the area, I should not have been surprised. Especially as a couple of days ago I watched a van take the diagonal across the end of our drive into the care home on the corner, I decided to relocate the log pile to the safety of the rose garden plot.insect hotel relocated

My original structure had filled five wheelbarrow loads. In retrieving what was left I barely completed two. At least that made the task a little easier.

This evening we dined on Mr Pink’s superb takeaway fish and chips with pickled onions and mushy peas. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the rioja.

Stranded On Bramble Bank

Jackie has been collecting little mice from a gallery in Milford on Sea. Each morning these charming little creatures, noses in the air, have been found in different locations. One of Flo’s Christmas Dragonology books contained a model which could be removed, assembled, and hung somewhere. Put these two facts together and you might be able to work out where the mice had moved to in their nocturnal flit.

Dragon and mice

This morning Jackie and I drove to Hythe on Southampton Water, and took a trip along the pier:Hythe Pier HistoryTrainPier headPeeliing paintWaiting roomPlankingPier supportJackieRailway on pierFerrySouthampton Water 1Southampton Water 2 Pier plank engraving 1 Pier plank engraving 2 Pier plank engravings sign

This antique structure, served by an ancient train, stretches across the sea where a ferry takes over the transport of passengers to Southampton. We took the train on our outward journey, and walked back to the High Street, seen from the pier, and back to our car.

Renovation work on Hythe Pier is a continuing process. Much of the planking has been replaced, although some is still in need of replacement. The waiting room exterior could do with a lick of paint, although the interior has a charm of its own. Older, rusting pier supports are visible from the modern stainless steel railings. One method of raising funds lies in the planking engraving which contains many messages, such as memorials to dead people, marking of visits, and at least one proposal of marriage.

The train from a bygone era, with views across Southampton Water, still carries travellers the length of the structure on its rust-coloured rails, and, of course planes that were not invented when it began its service, cross the skies to and from the airport.Plane

High Street from sea

When I overhead a comment in a conversation between two gentlemen walking along the footway, I realised they must be talking about the car transporter ship, Hoegh Osaka, which had run aground on Bramble Bank at 21.30 yesterday evening. The snippet was ‘all the press photographers are on Calshot Spit’. Naturally, we sped off to Calshot where the ship still lay stranded. The vessel had been on its way to Germany, when the grounding occurred and twenty five crew members were rescued.Hoegh OsakaHoegh Osaka zoomedSightseers 1PhotographersPhotographer pointing

The small beach at Calshot was swarming with sightseers. Anyone who has followed my ramblings across Westminster Bridge will know that I tend to be more interested in what is going on with the viewing crowds than in the attractions themselves. When, indicating the watchers assembled on the shingle, I offered my observation that ‘there’s the picture’, to one of the photographers, he simply smiled and kept his lens firmly aimed at the stricken vessel and its attending tugboats. This little village was packed with cars lining the roadside and the grassy banks alongside the beach huts, one of which, after Dylan Thomas’s ‘Llareggub’ from ‘Under Milk Wood’, was named ‘LLamedos’. (Read them backwards).

On our return journey, Jackie dropped me at Milford on Sea and I walked home by way of the Nature Reserve, Sharvells Road, Blackbush Road and the back of Shorefield.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s exquisite penne bolognese followed by a choice of syrup or raspberry jam sponges with custard or cream. Jackie’s beverage was Hoegaarden, Ian’s Peroni, and mine the last of the Margaux.

Falling Into Pits

Mice in dustbin (crop)11.12As I set off in the pouring rain for a perambulation around Minstead, I stopped to put a bin bag in our recently emptied dustbin.  The bin was not empty.  It was occupied by two bedraggled mice, one making sudden attacks on the other, which looked rather cowed.  They were clearly in danger of starvation, and one perhaps of cannibalism.  Had there not been shelter over the bins, which had their lids strewn about haphazardly, they may have drowned before they starved to death.  As a reward for their posing for me, I gently placed the bin on its side and, in turn, they scampered off.

I chose the Upper Drive route which has more forest before you reach the road.  The recent pools are now becoming lakes, and the rivulets down the road steady streams.  A silent, statuesque, pony, head drooping, planted across Seamans Lane, stood looking damp and forlorn.  I turned off right in the direction of Emery Down.  Reaching the ford, I now knew what it was all about.  A torrent poured down the hill leading to Furzey Gardens.  Drivers spurting and spraying their cars across the stream would certainly need to test their brakes when they reached comparatively dry ground; and I would have made my trouser legs even more soggy than they already were had I not used the footbridge.  I walked up the hill, turning right at a T junction leading to Minstead Hall, whence I returned by the lower drive to Castle Malwood Lodge.  Climbing up this steep road I took care to keep to the central camber where all I had to negotiate was debris from the storms, as opposed to the water flowing down the sides.

This afternoon Jackie decided to clean under the grills in the bay window.  We had discovered that these concealed under-floor heating, and the smell of burning dust was a bit strong.  The ornate cast iron grills are rather heavy.  Rather like the sides of a sofa or an armchair, these spaces, when explored, yielded trophies.  Hoping for a krugerrand the best Jackie could manage was a 2p piece.

Jackie produced a delicious sausage and bacon casserole (recipe) for our evening meal.  This was followed by an excellent Victoria sponge cake from the village shop.  I drank Unico Brindizi Riserva 2007.  Jackie didn’t imbibe because she was driving us to The Amberwood pub quiz in Walkford.

I will report on that tomorrow.