We have been invited to a special meal in celebration of the 30th anniversary of

our favourite local Indian restaurant. Unfortunately this is tomorrow – less than a month since my knee replacement surgery. We therefore cannot manage it. This morning, featuring the above photograph, we made a card for Raja and his staff and placed in the post on our way to my physiotherapy appointment with Claire at New Hall hospital.

Progress is very encouraging. Both walking and flexibility are a great improvement on the first operation last May. I just wouldn’t have been able to sit comfortably at the restaurant tables.

The day, as evidenced in my photographs, was dismally damp and misty.

Even mistletoe was unable to brighten the lane through Bodeham,

Dripping snowdrops were more successful.

Mallards and a moorhen didn’t mind the weather over this stretch of the River Avon,

where an egret (I think) wandered and a cormorant (I think) watched from a treetop.

A circling kite was occasionally glimpsed above the naked trees.

Woodgreen Common was rather obscure.

As we headed towards Godshill we witnessed exciting catching practice. A gentleman playing frisbee with a circular ring skimmed it through the air where his triumphant dog leapt to catch and return it.

Someone had left a cap on a bench overlooking what would have been a splendid view in better light. The Godshill road itself was so shrouded in mist that a recently fallen tree was barely visible.

Fog lights were essential on the high risk (of animal deaths) Roger Penny Way, where some impatient drivers continued to follow the 40 m.p.h. speed limit.

This evening we dined on an excellent takeaway meal from New Forest Tandoori. My choice was king prawn madras with special fried rice; Jackie’s was prawn curry with pilau rice. We shared a paratha. I drank sparkling water and Jackie didn’t.

Lens Test

I received a telephone call a day or so ago to tell me that the blood taken in Wednesday’s test had clotted, so we would have to return to New Hall hospital for a repeat. There was only one possible slot for this – today at 11.30 a.m. Jackie duly drove me there to have another extraction. Apart from a miscommunication about the timing (the sample had to be taken immediately before a courier sped off to London with it) this was all very straightforward.

As usual we diverted through the forest on our way home.

The parasitic balls clinging to an avenue of trees in Hale

are clusters of mistletoe enticingly dangling out of reach of would-be Christmas decorators.

The first three of these photographs were taken with my Canon SX700 HS; the last two with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II with the SIGMA 105mm Macro.

The smaller camera is preferable for wider shots – better if you can see what you are doing. It must be twelve months ago that I managed to crack the screen, with the result that this,

taken with the larger camera, is what I see when focussing on the wall opposite. As Jackie says, it is not just a point and shoot, but rather a point, shoot, and hope. Even the chevron shape of the crack is somewhat flattened.

Ditches, rivulets, and pools are now filling up nicely throughout the forest.

I used the 105mm lens for these shots of a grazing foal reflecting on a ditch alongside Roger Penny Way. First, as I approached the subject, I used the full range of the lens;

then, as I neared the young pony, switched to .45m – infinity.

On the other side of Roger Penny Way, I noticed another, adult, pony reflected in a speeding pool in the distant landscape. This image was produced with the full range of the above camera.

Here is the same scene seen with the SIGMA 105-600 mm at full range.

To our right of this animal were two more visible beyond now naked trees, taken with the same equipment.

The larger lens, set at 105mm, caught the first furry coated creature having crossed the ditch, probably without lifting its muzzle from its meal.

This evening we dined on firm pork chops; creamy mashed potato and swede; crunchy carrots and Brussels sprouts with which I drank Saint-Chinian 2017


The Swan Of Avon


When a knee surgeon, having laid you out, stretched, twisted, and probed, opens his diagnostic announcement with a deadpan “Your chances are good”, that could be considered disconcerting. So it was this morning at my assessment at Old Hall Hospital. Chances, er, chances? What followed, still deadpan, was perhaps a reassuring explanation. “One in hundred have complications, usually because of surgeon error. Unfortunately one in ten thousand don’t make it.” Apart from my abused knees I am apparently in good enough nick to take a punt. It is of course my choice.

I took it. I need total knee replacements; the left one as soon as possible, the right after six months. Normally the first operation would be carried out within two months. Would I be available for any possible cancellation? You bet.

Clock House

My appointment took place in the Clock Tower of this listed building. It is good to be worked over in a location that satisfies my soul.

Jackie, who, of course had driven me to the hospital, took us back through the forest.

We revisited the mill house, its outbuildings, and the race beside the bridges over the River Avon where I had photographed Richard’s ‘Casting Practice’ three days ago. A solitary swan demonstrated the the two wings of the river link up in the distance. Braemore Great Bridge is the one on which I stood to focus on the angler.

I have featured the parasitic mistletoe before, mentioning how prolific it can be. These avenues leading to and from Hale House appear to wear their summer foliage. This is not so. All we see is mistletoe. Daffodils and primroses still line the verges.

At Brook we lunched on excellent fish and chips in The Green Dragon. The view from the window would perhaps have adorned any chocolate box.

This evening we dined on a scrumptious, thick, mushroom omelette.



The Weather


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.

The Challenge

Pomport war memorial 2.13‘Les Hauts de Hurlevent’ is the French title of Emily Bronte’s awesomely tragic masterpiece ‘Wuthering Heights’.  Last night I watched the film version in English with French subtitles.  Tom Hardy is a magnificently brooding and vengeful Heathcliffe; Charlotte Riley a perfect, spirited, Cathy; and Sarah Lancashire a strong and motherly Nelly.  Everyone else was well worthy of their place in this gripping dramatisation from the screenplay of Peter Bowker.  Catherine, I cannot resist reporting, was played by Rebecca Night.

Clad in a warm dressing gown, under a duvet, reclining in bed with the Wordsworth biography in my hands; a cafetiere and cup on the bedside table; I thought of my late friend Ann.  It is my custom, on solitary mornings, to read in this manner until the coffee is consumed.  Realising that, in this room which has not yet received whatever sun may be on offer during this freezing season, I have only been half-filling the cup, I remembered Ann’s tale of her and Don’s trip to Norway for her son Ally’s wedding.  There, the natives only half-filled coffee cups so the drink would be at least tepid before it was finished.  This must have been at the back of my mind.

Swollen ditch 2.13Setting off up the D17 to Pomport I reversed the loop discovered on 3rd.  Perhaps it was something I said: the donkey virtually ignores me now.  rue Cailloud 2.13Before I had left the village, a vicious Auster tearing up rue Cailloud bit my fingers and sent the ubiquitous maple leaves bounding alongPomport church 2.13.  After the usual half hour my hands were warm and I’d raised a sweat which cooled and dampened my shirts.  Yes, I’m back to the four layers.

This time the downward stretch tested the knees.  I had to lean backwards and apply my brakes, especially after I paused to take a photograph and couldn’t help but start off at running pace, such was the incline. Downhill from Pomport 2.13 Fortunately, before descending steeply, the path flattened out enough to make this possible.

A trio of deer scutted, one after the other, between the bare vines.  Since it is always three I see together in the forest in Minstead, I wondered whether, rather like one rule of planting, that is the requisite number for company.

Mistletoe 2.13Clusters of mistletoe clung to their hosts.

This was a most pleasurable walk on a beautiful morning.

The hearty vegetable soup in Le Code Bar was just what I needed.  It was followed by an absolutely delicious kind of spring roll made of warm, moist, leek wrapped in thin layers of lightly crusted ham topped with melted cheese.  The main course, piled on a platter for two, consisted of three tender turkey thighs and a section of the neck with a mound of glistening pasta.

Now, Majid and Shafiq, the manager and chef of the Akash in Edgware Road, have for years been upping the ante in an effort to make me sweat with the heat of the chillies.  I swore I had a cold on the one day they managed it.  Today’s meal came with a challenge from Max in the kitchen.  Fred told me he had said ‘if he eats everything I want to see that’.  Always up for such a test, carefully removing them from my plate and arraying them on the empty platter, I returned the bones.  Max came out to see for himself.  It was then that I realised I had been closely observed by all the assembled company, who demonstrated their appreciation in the customary manner.  I hastily informed them and Max that, as usual when I’d dined in Le Code Bar, I would eat no more today.  And I had had no breakfast.