Shots For Scale

Jackie and Nugget continued planting and bed making this morning while I cleared up some of the debris. Our little robin has even begun to get under my feet. He has begun to think ahead and, knowing where we are likely to go, arrives there before us. He only has to see me scoop up a trug full of clippings and he will be awaiting my arrival at the compost heap.

The normal size bricks in this photograph indicate what a diminutive creature he is. With secateurs in hand Jackie needs to be careful not to amputate anything.

Now, “Where’s Nugget?” (32).

Jackie plonked these starlike allium seed heads for their decorative quality.

Elsewhere we have plenty of varieties of dahlia; yellow self-seeded bidens;

flaming sedums;

delicate fuchsias;









pretty petunias;

roses, such as magnificent Mama Mia,

pure white Winchester Cathedral,

and blousy Schoolgirl,

all still keeping company with planted urns in the Rose Garden.










Vibrant splashes of colour enhance garden views such as this one across the lawn with its basket hanging from the eucalyptus, petunias in the chimney pot, and Japanese anemones on the far side;

the stepping stones across the Cryptomeria Bed with its Michaelmas daisies and clematis scaling the arch that spans the Phantom Path;

the Gazebo Path, again sporting a clematis in its third flush, hanging baskets, and more.

The Patio Bed gloried in the morning sunlight.

Before lunch we took a short drive into the east of the forest.

Autumn leaves clung to damp fungus.

on the verges of Lower Sandy Down where the Modus puts the width of the winding lane into perspective.

While a curious field horse looked on

I photographed the opposite landscape where freer equine cousins could be glimpsed in the distance.

Further on a woman walking her dog provided a further shot for scale.

This afternoon I watched the recording of the World Cup rugby match between South Africa and Italy.

This evening we dined on succulent pork chops; crisp roast potatoes, one sweet; crunchy carrots, and tender cabbage and runner beans, all flavoured by tasty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Fleurie.


Jackdaws And Chips

New bed amended

Yesterday, Aaron had taken a corner off the new bed to provide a wider turning circle for Jackie on the back drive. Jackie began her day by replanting those items he had had to dig up, then executing a perfect four point turn.Jackie executing four point turn 1Jackie executing four point turn 2Jackie executing four point turn 3Jackie executing four point turn 4

After this, Peter, Ally, Becky, Ian, and Flo joined us for a breakfast of of coloured boiled eggs, toast, and croissants.

We were running out of Mr Pink’s chips left over from four nights ago. This was alarming.

You may ask why? Well, the pair of jackdaws, if not the most timid avian visitors we have, are certainly the most alert. For several days now, I had attempted to photograph them making off with these fried, but no doubt now rather soggy, titbits that Jackie has been feeding into the food tray. It is only jackdaws that have been retrieving them. Maybe the chips still glisten and are mistaken for jewels.

It has taken only the slightest movement from inside the sitting room as I reached for my camera, or rose to my feet to approach the window for the birds to fly away empty beaked. They were even aware that I was sitting motionless in a chair by the window, my arms aching as I held up my camera. My patience was ebbing fast when the photographic task was taken over by Flo, who claimed to be quicker than me. Even our granddaughter had to be content with taking some rather good shots of a young collared dove adjusting its position on the central arbour, a cheery robin camouflaged in the shrubbery, and that once ubiquitous, but now now rather rare, specimen, a house sparrow. Perhaps, like other cockneys, this latter bird has decamped to the countryside.Collared dove 1Collared dove  2Robin in shrubberyHouse sparrow

Until she hit on the idea of aiming the lens through a guest bedroom window. Flo had realised that the pair of scavengers surveyed the terrain from the rooftops and, when the coast was clear, took it in turns to swoop down to collect their chips. They must have seen safe passage as a bit of a gamble.Jackdaws 2Jackdaws 1Jackdaws 3Jackdaw 2Jackdaw 1Jackdaw 3

The assembled party lunched on Jackie’s roast lamb dinner. Roast potatoes, parsnips, Yorkshire puddings, cauliflower, green beans, and carrots accompanied a leg and a shoulder of meat. What Ian, an expert on the subject, described as the best mixed fruit crumble with custard and/or cream he had ever tasted. Peter, Ally, Becky, and Jackie drank two different sweet Gallo roses.  I drank Alexis Lichine cuvee exceptionelle bordeaux superior 2013. That was enough food for me for the day.

Ian, who drove his parents home soon afterwards, abstained until he returned four hours later.

The Topper And The Times

Our resident pheasant is becoming more accustomed to human presence. This morning, instead of taking, squawking, to the air, it strutted silently off along the paths as Jackie walked up the garden. From indoors, we can hear it conversing with other birds. Soon the greenfinches will spend whole days at a time shrilly screeching from the beech tree. The sharp grating tones of the larger bird should certainly syncopate with this, thus intensely irritating the head gardener.

My knee pain is responding to the medication, and, with the aid of the stick, I am getting around the house and garden more comfortably.

Yesterday I had scanned colour slides from the summer of 1971. Today I travelled two years further back in my archives to June 1969, where Michael was taking as much delight in entertaining Matthew as he was Becky in August ’71. Indeed, Michael’s expression in the second picture below is identical to that in the daisy image yesterday.Michael and Matthew 6.69 003Michael and Matthew 6.69 004Matthew and Michael 6.69Michael and Matthew 6.69 005

Whatever Mat was being taught to do with the dried stalks, he looked quite pleased to have got the idea.

I was intrigued to see The Topper comic lying on the parched grass. This is because at the beginning of 1953 we had eagerly awaited the first copy of this publication from the stable of D.C. Thompson & Co. Ltd, which appeared on 7th February. The imminence of this new entertainment had been advertised in The Dandy and The Beano, featured in ‘Her Very Own Seaside’. Maybe Jackie had experienced the same anticipation because, as our Mum had bought it for us, her Dad bought it for her and her sisters. It was Jackie who bought it for Michael.Matthew 6.69 002Matthew 6.69 006Matthew 6.69 007Matthew 6.69 008

Matthew is pretty smart at sorting out anagrams. It seems highly likely that he acquired this skill by assisting me with The Times crossword on the lawn at Amity Grove.Aaron shifting rubbleBack drive with ModusJackie in ModusJacking completing back drive turn

On a day as sunny as that pictured above, Aaron, apart from additional shingling, completed work on the back drive. Unfortunately there wasn’t quite enough room for Jackie to make the three point turn that was planned. Our under gardener therefore took down a remaining few posts and began shifting rubble in order to extend the turning area. This enabled Jackie to make a 333 point manoeuvre. The space will be further adjusted next week.

This evening we dined on fish, chips, baked beans, and pickled onions, followed by rice pudding. I drank Lidl’s Cotes du Rhone 2013, and Jackie abstained.

Chain Reactions

Having read Jane Gardam’s introduction to it, last night I began reading Molly Keane’s 1981 novel, ‘Good Behaviour’.
Early this morning Jackie drove us to Ringwood to make a bank transfer; to visit Ellis Jones solicitors; and to buy some eggs and veg. Rain throughout the night had replenished all the familiar pools, one of which required me to make a wide detour in order in order to pay for parking.
Car park poolTeetering on a low concrete kerb, I was in danger of stepping involuntarily into the swirling water sent rippling by cars driving through it. In those circumstances one expanding ripple is rapidly followed by another which in turn is ultimately superseded by a smaller one.
Back in October, we felt able, at last, to make an offer for The Old Post House. This was because the buyer of the London house part-owned by Jackie had pressed for completion of his purchase before Christmas, claiming he had both deposit and mortgage agreed in principal. It was not an accurate presentation of his position and caused inordinate delay consequent upon constantly moving goalposts. That sale is now complete, and today we transferred our purchase deposit to our solicitor’s client account. We await exchange and completion dates.
It is more than twenty six years since I bought a house in this country and a lot has changed in that time, not just the prices. Never before have I been caught in a chain. I now understand why our English system is considered to be such a nightmare. For those unfamiliar with this, a chain is the term given to the queue that is created by the fact that most people need to sell one house before they can buy another. No-one can be sure that any one purchase will not break down. Thus if I promise you a certain amount of money for your house, you may then promise someone else a figure for their house. I may have undertaken to buy your property based on another person’s promise to buy mine. If  my purchaser reneges, I cannot buy your place, and you cannot proceed with your purchase.
The Ashcombe Road house I bought when I was 21 was my first, and there was no onward chain. All I had to do was secure a mortgage. In 1963 the amount one could borrow was based upon one salary only. It is my conviction that the major reason for constantly rising prices is the relaxation of that regulation, effectively meaning two salaries, and eventually even more, would be required.
It was in 1968 that I bought the second house, in fact the London one mentioned above. Again there was no chain. The price that year was £5,000. It has just fetched £745,000.
There was an ongoing chain in the purchase of the Gracedale Road house in 1980, but, no-one having misrepresented their position, all went smoothly. Again, the transition from there to Lindum House in Newark in 1987, was unproblematic. Perhaps, until now, I have just been fortunate.
Derrick 1962Nothing is certain about photo number 46 in the ‘through the ages’ series, except that it was taken during the period when I was blissfully ignorant about the processes of buying and selling property. Wimbledon Common is the most likely location, and Vivien the probable photographer sometime in 1962.
We also have a term ‘chain reaction’. This is employed when one event, usually a disaster, follows upon another. Whilst I was writing the above notes, I received a call from Wells garage giving the diagnosis on Jackie’s Modus. The water pump had failed. This caused the engine to overheat. That destroyed the head gasket. Oil mixed with water. As, it seems, with everything else on this make of car, labour is intensive because the design is such that, even to change a headlamp bulb requires a complete dismantling job. We are stretched so far on the house purchase that now is not the time to contemplate the purchase of a new car. A quick discussion resulted in the decision to have the car repaired at a cost of £1,200. That sum in 1962 would have been £50 short of 50% of the cost of the first house mentioned above. Given that we had forgotten about stamp duty for house purchases and almost everything seems to have VAT added, I suppose you’d also call the car problem a double whammy.
Jackie on footpathReflections in waterlogged fieldsStream into Eyeworth PondThe late afternoon and early evening were bright and clear. We drove up to Eyeworth Pond near Fritham and walked along the gravel footpath, now, like the surrounding fields pretty waterlogged. On 10th November last year the pond was not as full, and the terrain not as covered in water as it was today. A rivulet feeding the lake had then trickled its way across the heathland through which the path runs. Today the rivulets were new threads speeding into what is currently a fast moving stream that could be heard from a distance. The now familiar devastation to the trees was here, in parts, even more dramatic than in some other areas. My photograph shows what is nothing more than a huge limb torn from a nearby tree, the shattered shards giving an indication of the force with which it had come crashing down.
Chilli con carne (recipe); wild rice and peas; and strawberry jelly in evaporated milk provided our sustenance this evening. I finished the malbec.Waterlogged fieldsFallen branches

Doctor Who

When I began this daily blog in May last year, it was possible to provide an individual header picture for each post.  Following my acquisition of a digital camera that June, I have illustrated posts ever since.  Some time later, WordPress made amendments to the presentation of articles.  I was unable to use the new system to introduce a different header each day.  It may be my lack of proficiency, but I managed to lose all my individual feature pictures and abandoned the idea of one general series header. I thought I had permanently deleted those I had used .  Recently I have discovered I hadn’t, and have been able to reintroduce them, not as headers, but in an appropriate place within the text.  I spent the morning taking this process up to mid-August 2012.

The Doctor (3)Showing a great deal more respect than those of you who know who you are, my old friend Geoff Austin, still under the illusion that I resemble Jon Pertwee, had the good grace in an e-mail to point out that, as I was never as scruffy as Worzel, the role of the third Doctor Who would be a much more appropriate comparison.  Maybe, back in the 1980s when awestruck children gaped in my direction and exclaimed: ‘There’s Doctor Who’, it was Jon Pertwee and not Tom Baker they were thinking of.

Leaves on Rolls bonnetLeaves on ModusIt had been a pretty uninviting morning, strong winds having buffeted the trees, and grey clouds having produced hailstones to hammer them and our windows. This afternoon sparkled by comparison.  Leaves adhering to the Nattier bonnet of Ari’s resplendent Rolls Royce, somehow managing to look more delicately decorative than those on that of Jackie’s more mundane Modus, which seemed rather like an unpleasant rash.

Thus bedecked, at the wheel, wandering at will, Jackie drove us up Roger Penny Way and meandered through pretty villages, now in Hampshire, now in Wiltshire. Bramshaw, Langford, Hale, Woodgreen,  Downton, Redlynch, Nomansland are a few of the names I can remember.  It would have been possible to add another portfolio of stunning autumn colour to this post. Backlit ponySheep on hill I refrained, but thought a pony in Shave Wood and sheep on a hill in Bramshaw worth getting out of the car for.

Harissa was an unusual, but effective ingredient in Jackie’s chicken jalfrezi this evening.  Served with savoury rice including an unknown powder, part of a Christmas present, that was probably garam masala, this was as delightful as ever.  Spicy pumpkin pie and cream was the perfect sweet.  Finishing the rioja with this, I knocked over my last glassful, which was a shame.