First Frost

Our first, albeit mild, frost of the season left a few fingermarks on the garden this morning.

Frost on solar light

Despite its leaving specks of icing on the solar lamps with their suitably frosted design, throughout the day we enjoyed enough sunlight, such as that burnishing our remaining beech leaves, for us to be justified in anticipating a little more overnight twinkling. The pond is yet to freeze.

Beech leaves

Frost on nasturtium leaves

The nasturtium leaves that proudly cupped raindrop bubbles bow down in flaccid surrender;

Frost on laurel leaves

and the rhododendrons had second thoughts about budding.

Rose Margaret Merrill

Margaret Merrill remained coolly unperturbed.

This afternoon I placed the Dead End Path section into the garden album, and printed the Oval Path and Elizabeth’s bed selection of photographs.

In order to track down a Chinese takeaway open this Monday evening Jackie was forced into a real hunter gatherer foray. Eventually she lit upon The Happy Wok in Pennington whose windows were themselves lit. We enjoyed the meal with which I drank more of the Bardolino.

Early Christmas Lights

Mike, the plumber came today and made excellent progress on fitting the new bath and retiling the guest bathroom.

Jackie continued potting up plants for the cold frames and greenhouses.

I received a positive response from livelytwist, and began the second volume of the garden album bye mounting the sections on Phantom and Helicon Paths.

Today was wet, but the wind had dropped and the temperature still very warm. Raindrops clung to numerous plants, such as

Raindrops on snapdragon


Raindrops on nasturtium leaves

and nasturtiums, which knew very well they should have succumbed limply to cold weather by now;

Raindrops on maple

and the leaves of the red Japanese maple have been transformed into early Christmas lights.

Paprika pork

This evening we dined on Jackie’s perfect pork paprika (‘Don’t ask for a recipe. I haven’t got one’), a special fried rice, followed by bananas sliced into vanilla and caramel ice cream with toffee sauce. Jackie drank sparkling water and I drank more of the Malbec.

The Agriframes Arch

Rose CompassionBirch leaves, verbena petals, nasturtium leavesAfter yesterday’s constant rain, a bright morning lent a sparkle to everything in the garden. The Compassion rose was sprinkled with raindrops; as the broad nasturtium leaves that had halted the descent of those of the birch, and petals of verbena bonarensis.
Clerodendrum trichotomumClerodendrum trichotomum 2This clerodendrum trichotomum had the appearance of a parasol-shaped cocktail stick bearing a drop of Delboy’s pina colada, as featured in the long-running TV comedy series, ‘Only Fools And Horses’. It should have had a dark blue cherry fixed to the ferrule. Perhaps that has been eaten.
I took my usual Hordle Cliff beach Families on shinglewalk. On this sultry summery morning, ringside seats on the shingle were filling up fast.
Soon after midday we took delivery of an Agriframes Classic Gothic Arch, and set about assembling it and putting it in place. This was to occupy us until the light faded as the sun began to settle itself down for the night.
Jackie pondering instructionsEven Jackie was flummoxed by the totally inadequate instructions that were enclosed. She needed my input to help decipher them, which, as my regular readers will know, is really saying something. A favourite of the R.H.S. gardens at Wisley, this elegant structure comes with a fifteen year guarantee. This is quite crafty really because it could take several of those years, before it is exposed to the elements, to construct it.
At the midway stage, we were advised to fix the bottom poles into the ground. A hole-maker was provided for the purpose. This metal pole was easily driven into the soil on one side of the path the arch was to straddle. On the other side, a few inches down, I struck an immovable object. Stone? Concrete? I wasn’t about to find out. We moved the site until all four holes could be pierced to the required depth. From then on it was comparatively plain sailing. Until we found we had two screws left over. A minor panic ensued as we carefully checked each spacer bar. There were none missing, so we decided someone on the assembly line must have been feeling generous.
White bush roseThe need for the arch was occasioned by a beautiful mature white rambling rose that was, during the summer, running rampant over the surrounding shrubs. Jackie had pruned it heavily earlier in the Agriframe archyear as it was becoming a danger to passers by. Once we had erected the arch we trained much of the rest of the rose onto it. There is still tidying up to be done, but we had had enough for one day.
This evening Jackie will drive us to New Milton to collect Louisa who will stay overnight and leave with us early in the morning for Chris’s funeral. We will all be early to bed with Jackie’s lamb Jalfrezi inside us.

The Uses Of Enchantment

The gales are back in force. As the wind howled and the rain lashed at our window panes, tearing down the wisteria outside the kitchen door, I felt like a little pig.

One of three, that is. Fortunately in a house made of brick. Had it been of straw we would have woken up exposed to the elements. I refer, of course, to the fairy tale featuring a big bad wolf who huffed and puffed and blew down two of the houses, built of insubstantial materials, with disastrous consequences for the piglets. The wiser, better prepared, porker survived. Other versions have the third brother rescuing his siblings. Either way, it is an entertaining fable, which has given generations of children scary delight.
Not everyone today would agree that this, like many other such tales, is a suitable story for young children. I cannot now remember whether this one featured in Bruno Bettelheim’s 1976 book, ‘The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales’. ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, also featuring a frightening wolf certainly did. All children have fearful fantasies that they need to come to terms with in a safe atmosphere and environment. Bettelheim’s thesis is that folk tales featuring death, destruction, witches and injury, help children to do so. I have more than once referred to the Brothers Grimm’s ‘Hansel and Gretel’, which some people, as with much of this duo’s work, consider too dark. I am, however, in agreement with Bettelheim.
Heinrich Hoffman, for me, is another matter.

His ‘Struwwelpeter’, of 1845, at one time the most prolifically published children’s book in the world, is aimed at scaring infants into behaving themselves. The cover of my 1909 copy of Routledge’s English translation illustrates what happens to Little Suck-a-Thumb. There is no possibility of redemption in these cautionary tales – just horrific punishment. Contrast this with what must be universally the most popular children’s book of today,

Maurice Sendak’s ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ from 1963. Max, punished for ill-treating the family dog is banished to his room, indulges his fantasies, and is finally forgiven by his mother. It is one thing, although not good, for a child to wave a fork to frighten a dog, quite another for an adult to snip off thumbs.
By mid-afternoon everything had calmed down and I could cease my internal rambling and walk the Hordle Cliff top route in reverse.

Water bubbles balanced on nasturtium leaves sparkled in the sunlight.
When we arrived at Downton at the beginning of April a flood around a manhole cover on a bend a short distance from our back drive was being pumped out.

Today the lake is back. The flood warning sign has lain in the hedgerow all summer.

I fished it out and leant it against a tree. Without this warning the car in the picture would have rushed through the water the driver would not have seen on the blind bend, and given me a cold shower. Other pools reflected the skies at regular intervals.

The skeleton of an umbrella no longer fit for purpose lay abandoned in a bus shelter that has also seen better days.

Even the dogs on the cliff path showed no interest in descending to the shingle below.
This evening’s dinner consisted of rack of pork ribs marinaded in chilli sauce, served with pilau rice and green beans, followed by ginger pudding and custard. Unless you are of a certain age you will not remember the runner beans that, by the time they reached the greengrocer’s, had tough skins with strong cords running down the sides. If you do remember, you may have helped your mother top and tail them, deftly stripping off the stringy bits. Now, the young vegetables reach the supermarkets in tender condition and you just toss them into the boiling water or the steamer. With our meal Jackie finished the Pedro Jimenez, and I began the Rawnsley Estate shiraz grenach mourvedre 2012. Incidentally, it was competition from the Australians that forced the French to name the grapes on their wine labels.

The Eye Patch

Caterpillars on nasturtium leavesJackie’s nasturtium leaves are being eaten by minute caterpillars hatched from little yellow butterfly eggs.  The sneaky parents laying the eggs on the underside reckon without our eagle-eyed head gardener.

Bee on sunflowerYesterday’s bee was harvesting a marigold.  Today’s perched on a sunflower, confirming my suspicion that these creatures are more attracted to yellow flowers than to anything else.

Jackie drove us to The Firs for a gardening session.  On an absolutely sweltering day this was a difficult task. Madonna lily and dried up pansies and tulip stalks The garden has suffered from months of cold rain, delaying everything; followed by several weeks heatwave making it rather too hot to work and forcing all the tardy growth at once.  A Madonna lily that has just about survived these extremes appeared alongside a dried out pot the contents of which, pansies and tulips, haven’t.

Jackie managed a decent amount of potting up whilst I concentrated on weeding, which at times meant grappling with brambles which had a tendency to get their own back. Compost The compost heaps created last year are beginning to look rather inadequate, as the newest one, despite its walls having been raised a bit a week or so ago, is now looking rather mountainous. Bramble clippings The pruned brambles are piled up separately for burning.

Sweet peasI have already recorded that Jackie planted more than 100 sweet pea plants.  Elizabeth was able to cut a rather good scented display purely for the pleasure of Maureen Allen.

Drinks breaks were welcome.  On one, Paul Clarke joined us and, among other things we discussed the open studio planned for later this month, to which his mother will be contributing some items.  In discussing the widening of the theme from drums to music in general, and the fact that nostalgia is quite popular at the moment, I suddenly remembered a slide I had taken of Chris about fifty years ago.  Complete with Hank Marvin specs, my brother is playing a guitar.  That has to be printed for the exhibition.

Chris 2.66.001Fortunately my slide library has assisted my memory.  On our return to Minstead I couldn’t wait to retrieve the picture.  Under the specs Chris is wearing an eye patch.  I cannot remember why this was necessary.  It is unlikely he fancied himself as a pirate.  The photograph was taken in February 1966, on the day of Jacqueline’s marriage to John Clancy, whose cigarette lights up the background of our parents’ living room at 18 Bernard Gardens, Wimbledon.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s chicken jalfrezi and savoury rice, with trifle to follow.  She drank Hoegaarden whilst  I began a bottle of Maipo reserva Merlot 2012.