Moles

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Molehills

220px-maulwurf_gefangen2007Moles are small creatures that live underground. They rarely surface in the clear light of day, but throw up evidence of their presence as they tunnel seeking mates.

They are considered vermin highly destructive to crops, and have been traditionally hunted down for centuries.

Wikipedia, as well as providing this photograph of a captured creature, tells us that ‘traditional molecatchers travelled from farm to farm. The molecatcher’s customers would provide food and lodging, as well as a fee for every mole caught. The molecatcher could also earn money by selling the moleskins to fur dealers.’

Today I finished reading, for the second time, John Le Carré’s 1974 novel, ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’, the first of three works featuring George Smiley, who is possibly as well known in British espionage culture as James Bond, largely on account of the 1979 BBC TV series and the 2011 film starring Gary Oldman.

You could be forgiven for wondering what this has to do with moles. Well, the book features a cast of moles, or spies who work undercover and insinuate themselves into positions of power in other countries. The Cambridge five were KGB moles in the British Intelligence Service of the 50s and 60s. Characters in Le Carré’s novel are inspired by these five Cambridge University men. His story tells of the convoluted lives of such agents. The work is, unlike the 007 tales, actually undramatic. It is superbly crafted, largely through the devices of retrospective conversations and interviews. Even on second reading I had trouble working it all out.

Tinker Tailor ...1Tinker Tailor...2

My Folio Society edition is cleverly illustrated by Tim Laing whose monochrome drawings exhibit obfuscation in keeping with the book’s theme of mistrust and deception.

Tinker Tailor.....cover

Similarly appropriate are the anonymous silhouettes on the front cover.

This evening Jackie produced a well filled mushroom and onion omelette, chips, and baked beans, with which I drank sparkling water.

Shades Of A Late Autumn

Pastel skiesIsle of Wight and The Needles pastel skiesOver both the still fields and the calm sea, pastel shades dominated the skies on a crisp morning as I took my Hordle Cliff top walk in reverse. Although the sun was largely clouded over, shooting directly towards it across The Solent produced a lighter image.
Leaves on footbridgsAutumn leavesStreamThese muted colours were repeated in the fallen leaves blending with the planks of the footbridge over the Shorefield stream, but, there being no sunshine, I allowed myself to use the vivid colours setting for the autumn leaves on the drive to Oldrode House on Downton Lane.
No-one was at home in
 

Rookery desertedthe rookery.

Couple on footpathFootpath to the seaA gentleman greeted me as I approached the steps leading to the footpath to the sea. For obvious reasons, I held back until he reached the top, and repeated this self-interested politeness when a friendly couple joined me on the cliff path to Barton, along which I walked a little way before turning back to the coast road.

MolehillsJudging by the evidence of their frenzied activity on the grassed terrain at the cliff top, the moles are becoming frantic in their urge to reproduce.

CattleThe weather is becoming colder now, but remains most clement for the time of year. Cattle have been Marigoldslet back into the field alongside Hordle Closed Cemetery, and marigolds still bloom in Bridge Cottage Garden.

The wind picked up again this afternoon with, I am convinced, the sole purpose of harassing me in my efforts at continuing to clear our fallen foliage. I did, however persevere, consoled by the thought that I did not have to tackle Oldrode’s drive.

Oak treeThe sun also emerged late in the day and emblazoned an oak tree on the opposite side of Christchurch Road.

Happy Times is the name of the Pennington Chinese takeaway. We ate more of their excellent food this evening. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank a reserve Languedoc red wine from 2012.

The White Feathers

I don’t think the fact that it was a dull overcast morning today when we made continuing slow progress on the work of clearing the edges of the back drive, was really the reason I am beginning to find it very boring. Perhaps you are too.

I brought bolt cutters into play to assist in disentangling the chain link fence from the trees. The task took a further two hours, and I still left parts of links protruding from the trunks of trees that had grown round them. The metal was so deeply embedded in the example shown here that, some way into its cut, my saw struck it and I needed to employ an axe.


Having, for the second month running, missed the home bottle collection, this afternoon Jackie drove us down to the bottle bank at Milford on Sea, where we unloaded our bottles and jars, and I walked back home via the footpath alongside the stream and through the Nature Reserve. This time, instead of arriving at Shorefield, I diverted into the Woodland Walk and across a paddock which brought me out, via Westminster Road, to the cliff top.


At regular intervals on the shrubbery along the footpath, small white feathers were neatly laid on leaves. It was as if the birds who had eaten Hansel’s breadcrumbs, taking pity on the lad, had replaced them with scraps of plumage.


Molehills also appeared at regular intervals along the way. The solitary creatures who make these, beset at this time of the year by the urge to mate, blindly shuffle along their dark tunnels until they find their object of desire, do the necessary, and return to their lonely existence. Every so often, the head gardener informs me, rather similarly to the activity of escapees from a prisoner of war camp, the earth has to be cleared from the tunnel, and is consequently pushed up to the surface.
As I approached one of the bridges I watched an excited family playing Pooh Sticks.

By the time I reached them they had moved on, and were now, as they said, engaged in a hunt for the poo possibly left in the undergrowth by their dog. It was the grandfather who told me about the route across the paddock.
Once on the cliff top, hoping to find a path emerging near the bottom of Downton Lane, I walked further along in the direction of Barton on Sea. I was disappointed in this, since all the stiles bore a Private notice, so I backtracked at took my usual route back through Shorefield via West Road.

Windborne crows chased each other across the skies.

Clouds loomed over Hengistbury Head, as a weak sun glinted on the sea, and a yacht sailed against the backdrop of The Needles.


The hedge to the garden of The Wilderness on the approach to Shorefield glowed brightly with vibrant honeysuckle and rose hips.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious chicken jalfrezi (recipe) and pilau rice, followed by profiteroles. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank El Pinsapo rioja 2011.

Harry The Grape

There is nothing more certain to do my head in than to try something either new or that I haven’t done for more than a week on the computer.  You will therefore be able to understand why I have been putting off moving my Apple computer to Minstead from the Firs.  Well, to be more accurate, setting it up at Minstead.  Elizabeth persuaded me to remove the Mac some time ago, but I have deferred the satisfaction of actually getting it to work.  I had to feel very strong to tackle that.  So I spent the morning at it.  Getting it plugged in was straightforward enough.  Turning it on worked out all right.  Then came the wireless mouse and keyboard.  No idea.  The box on screen said they weren’t discoverable.  Perhaps the batteries needed changing.  They did.  That did the trick.  Now for the internet.  Couldn’t get on.  We have a home hub, but can’t remember the password or how to set it up.  Ah, but I can remember Elizabeth’s.  Tried that.  That got me access to a BT hotspot.  Which will have to do for the moment.

The reason I bought the Apple in the first place was for photography.  I also bought a professional negative film and slide scanner, and printer capable of producing A3+ size photographs.  The ever practical Jackie has rigged up a wheeled platform housing these that can be brought from the bedroom wardrobe cupboard to the computer in the living room when I want to use them.  For everyday printing I have a smaller printer/scanner that works well enough with the Windows laptop.  But it wouldn’t work with the Apple.  Of course not.  The software disc must be loaded in.  Where was it?  After about half an hour I found it where it should have been and where it actually was in the first place and I didn’t find it when I looked.  It was quite a long process to upload this, but I managed it.  Then I printed a sample picture which had lines all over it.  That meant the nozzle had to be cleaned.  Simple enough on the laptop, but it took me ages to manage it on the Apple.

One last task would suffice for today.  Downloading the digital photographs from my camera to Windows Vista laptop works like a dream.  But could I do it on the Apple?  No.  That computer, bought in 2007 is too old, for goodness sake.

The New Forest Inn 2.13It was almost a relief, after lunch, to walk to Lyndhurst, ahead of Jackie to meet her there, via Emery Down, where The New Forest Inn was making good use of at least one chimney.

On the way through Minstead I stopped and chatted with a couple on a walking holiday.  Thinking I recognised their accent I asked where they were from.  It was Spalding in Lincolnshire, which is not all that far from Newark.

Pheasant 2.13On the road down to the ford a male pheasant scurried across my path.  ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ is a hoary old question to which there are numerous humorous answers.  I don’t know why my bird crossed the road in the first place, but I think he turned and recrossed it because he had seen me get my camera out, and, proud of his plumage, wished to prance about and pose for me.

Molehills 2.13Molehills abounded in the fields and on the verges.  I have never seen a live mole, but I am sure I would know one from E.H.Shepard’s marvellous illustrations to Kenneth Grahame’s children’s classic ‘The Wind In The Willows’, which was one of my favourites.  So inspired was I by Mr. Toad and his friends that, in my teens in the mid-’50s, I began to make a comic book called ‘Toad in the Wild West’.  Mr. Toad 2.13That original masterpiece is long gone.  But here is a rough sketch of the eponymous hero.

Perched on the hilltop as you approach Lyndhurst from Emery Down is the rather splendid Victorian church of Saint Michael and All Angels. Gravestone steps, St Michael and All Angels 2.13

In its graveyard lie the ashes of Alice Hargreaves, nee Liddell, the inspiration for the reverend Charles Dodgson, otherwise known as Lewis Carroll.  His  ‘Alice’ books are also timeless classics.

A steep set of stone steps winding down to the town carpark is made from old gravestones, almost all the inscriptions of which are completely obliterated.  One would hope that these erasures were the effect of centuries of wind and rain, rather than of recent footsteps.

Jackie’s complete lamb jalfrezi meal was reprised for our dinner.  I finished the Carta Roja while she drank Orange Hefeweizen beer from Kitchen Garden Brewery in Sheffield Park, Uckfield.  This is a Sussex outlet which seems to have some provenance for Jackie.  Some years ago Jackie picked grapes for the friend of a friend who ran the Sheffield Park Vineyard and Nursery.  He was Harry the Grape.  Harry Godwin would be beyond retirement age by now.  So has he or his son branched out?  Or are there now two different enterprises?  Answers in a comment please.

Episode 2 of ‘Call the Midwife’ followed our meal.