Changing Prints

Today the constantly leaking skies remained grizzling throughout.

This afternoon, in the drizzle, Jackie and I transported a superfluous chair to the Oakhaven  Hospice Shop in Highcliffe. They were pleased to receive it.

Nicki and Andrew were conveying more of Elizabeth’s belongings from storage to her new house. We drove on to Pilley for a drink with these three in the Fleur de Lys. We enjoyed a pleasant conversation before the others set about their work and we returned home.

In speaking about how I came by my Warwinter book of drawings, I was reminded that I had not changed the display print for some time.

Our downstairs loo is entitled The Print Room because it is decorated with a random collection of prints, some of which, like the above-mentioned set are intended constantly to make way for others.

I put this right later today, replacing




These stark black and white illustrations convey the reality of that terrible winter of occupation.

This is the top section of one of the walls. Beneath the Warwinter picture is a signed print number 51/90 of Hidden Depths by Chris Noble. Alongside hangs a framed set of Chapter Headings to Suzannah Whatman’s Housekeeping Book, being the signed prints by Frank Martin decorating the Geoffrey Bles publication of 1956. This is number 13 priced at 1 guinea each.

Elizabeth returned to spend a few more days with us until her new home is sufficiently habitable. This evening we drove back over to The Fleur de Lys for a celebration meal. The ladies shared a fish platter starter, while my choice was cream of tomato soup with fresh, crusty, bread. Elizabeth and I both chose chicken and ham pie with mashed potato and perfect mange touts and curly kale; Jackie thoroughly enjoyed  vegetable open ravioli. My wife and sister both chose a peanut butter parfait dessert with lots of other delicacies, such as chocolate. I chose the excellently flavoured brioche a marmalade budding with custard and vanilla ice cream. Jackie drank Blue Moon while Elizabeth and I drank El Volquita Tempranillo 2017. The service was as friendly and efficient as always, and the food exquisite.


The gloriously sunny weather that has welcomed us to Downton continued today. Rape fieldI took a walk up Hordle Lane alongside the extensive rape fields that glowed beneath the cloudless blue skies.Path round rape field A footpath on the left led around one field and through another. At first the fields were on my left.Horses through hedge Horses lazed in a paddock on my right. Further footpaths put the rape on the right and woods on my left.Bluebells and tree rootsBluebells and fallen treePrimroses

Bluebells enlivened the forest floor through which they had penetrated as they sprung from their hibernating bulbs. Naturally I took a path through the woods where primroses were equally abundant. This wound around a bit, but I could hear the roar of what I hoped was Christchurch Road, distant on my left. Some of the time. Otherwise I heard the cawing of rooks, the humming of various insects, and cackling of hens and geese. A bleating and baaing  led me along another track in the hope I might see some lambs.

Sheep & lambsSheep & lambs 2 I was not disappointed. They littered wide open grassland to my left. Farmland to the right contained Shetland ponies and black sheep, one of which was a magnificent three-horned ram that took to its heels at the sight of my camera. Maybe I’ll catch it next time.

The wide track through Peter’s farm took me to Lower Ashley Lane, where I turned left to the junction with Lymington Road, a section of Christchurch Road. I returned home along this undulating, winding busy thoroughfare lacking a footpath. I had to be rather vigilant.

This afternoon we took delivery of Flo’s wardrobe from Oakhaven Hospice Trust. The men took it upstairs and our granddaughter manoeuvred it into its alcove.

Flo took some rather lovely photographs of the garden.Spring by Flo                                                    This one she entitled ‘Spring’.

My manly tasks today were helping Jackie to put up more curtain rails, then to add to the skip pile. Anyone from Globe Removals may wish to skip what follows. Their stalwart men moved four dismantled IKEA wardrobes, all carefully marked up by Michael, from his Wimbledon house to storage; out of storage; and into our garage ready for us to reassemble. They are too tall for our ceilings, which is why we bought another from Oakhaven Hospice Trust. We have been unable to give them away. This afternoon I began humping the extremely heavy sections from garage to garden heap. I didn’t finish the job. But there is a lot more room in the garage.

This evening Jackie drove to the Hordle Chinese Takeaway in Stopples Lane and returned with a plentiful feast on which we dined with Flo. I drank Spitfire ale.

Fifty Years Ago Today

This morning Jackie and I had a trip to Highcliffe, last home to so many people that it is full of shops with good quality second-hand goods from houses recently rendered unoccupied by infirmity or death.

We went in search of curtains, of which the Sue Ryder shop provided three good pairs, and the Oakhaven Hospice a fourth. A wardrobe was also a requirement, because Flo is coming to stay in a couple of days time, and we want her to have a choice of bedrooms. This we found in the hospice where, in November 2012, we had bought our serpentine table. It will be delivered on the relevant day. We brunched in the Star cafe.Rape field from front bedrooms

Should our granddaughter choose one of the bedrooms at the front she will have a view across fields to a rape crop in the distance.Cabbage whit and hoverfly on hellebore The idyllic back garden was visited this afternoon, among other creatures, by a cabbage white butterfly and a hover fly sharing the sunlight on a hellebore. And is that a caterpillar snaking up between them?


The tulips are now so full-blown that they have a kaleidoscopic quality.

Chequerboard by GilesFor my fiftieth birthday in July 1992, my friend Giles made me a chequerboard in stained glass. It now enhances the window at the foot of our stairs.

Fifty years ago today Michael was born.

Vivien & Michael 24.4.64

Here Vivien holds him when he was ten days old.

I have given each of my offspring a stack of albums containing photographs of their childhood. When I phoned Michael today, he told me that Alice had produced a slide show from his albums and they were watching it on their computer.

Early this evening I strolled down Downton Lane to investigate the caravan sites, and in particular the shop. Downton Holiday Park is alongside the lane. A larger and more salubrious establishment is the Shorefield Country Park on Shorefield Road. That has a very well stocked Spar, which will be our village shop.

This evening we dined on Tesco’s finest microwaveable curries; lamb rogon josh for me and chicken jalfrezi for Jackie, with Sainsbury’s vegetable samosas heated in the oven. The oven is definitely meant to be low level, because Jackie, who is herself tall, is not high enough to read the symbols on the control dial. I opened a bottle of Isla Negra reserva cabernet sauvignon 2013 and drank some of it.

The Serpentine

This morning we drove back to Highcliffe to collect a hall table we had bought from a hospice shop yesterday.  Jackie then drove up to Highcliffe Castle and esconced herself with coffee and scones whilst I went for a walk along the beach.

Walkers on Highcliffe beach 11.12

I followed a path from the castle grounds to the beach and walked to Friars cliff where I joined the Christchurch Coastal Walk back to my starting point.  After a short tour of the grounds I found Jackie in the tea rooms, by which time I was dripping all over the place.

The journey from Minstead had been very pleasant and quite sunny.  The overnight rain had left much of the forest waterlogged and pools on the roads.  Each passing vehicle threw up showers of rainwater which had not yet drained away.  As we drove into Highcliffe the sky darkened significantly, and as I reached the beach the rain began to plummet.

Although there is an open path from the castle grounds to the beach below, there is a wire mesh fence otherwise surrounding them.  I was intrigued to see a fresh posy affixed to the mesh, through which the sealine was visible.  Was there  a story there?  Later, on the Christchurch Walk, just as high above the beach, someone had discarded a single stem red rose.  Was there a connection?

The more I burnt my boats and progressed along the almost unoccupied shingle, the faster drove the more or less horizontal stinging rain and the biting wind.  As the tide was ebbing, it soon revealed that there was a sandy beach of which I had yesterday been unaware.  Pebbles were in parts covered with various forms of seaweed.  Shore birds were scavenging among the still sea-wet shingle and weed.  Crows seemed to find something worth picking over.  A group of birds I took to be some kind of sandpiper played a little game with me.  They trotted along ahead of me until I got too close, thumbed their beaks at me, flew off, descended onto the sand to continue their foraging a little further on, and repeated the whole process.

When I tired of the game and the conditions I decided to join a gentleman who was sheltering against a concave sea wall.  He leant whilst his two labrador-looking dogs scampered in the pools.  I continued walking but I was at least gaining some respite from the elements.  His dogs ignored his calling them off when they jumped up and sniffed around me.  My instructions to them to disappear smartish were more successful.

Rows of beach huts at Friars cliff were padlocked for the winter.  On the Christchurch Walk lies the Steamers Point information centre.  Someone with a sense of humour of which I greatly approve, has placed an ammonite in its rock with a clear reference to Ammon, the ancient Egyptian ram-headed god.  Is that a lamb by it’s side?

Highcliffe Castle is a largely modern renovation of a building which was rendered uninhabitable by fires in the 1960s.  Because it is mostly built of medieaval French masonry and stained glass, shipped over for Lord Stuart de Rothesay, it looks far older than its 180 years.  I felt far too bedraggled after my drenching to visit the building or the exhibition which it housed.  This will be undertaken at a later date.

In the flat at Morden Jackie had availed herself of the small half-freezer and my little Ryman’s filing cabinet, which had stood in the tiny hall, to deposit her handbag and car keys on entering.  Because we now have enough room to place these items in more suitable areas, she was without an appropriate receptacle.  In the Oakhaven Hospice Shop she had spotted a fine serpentine table which would do the trick, but yesterday we had no room for it in the car.  It is now enhancing, and filling more of, our hall space.

The sky was clear, and the sun shone throughout the afternoon, whilst I changed into dry clothes and put the heating on.

This evening Jackie produced an absolutely delicious chilli con carne followed by an excellent unburnt bread and butter pudding.  I drank more of the Cahors 2010, whilst she drank Hoegaarden.