Up Close And Personal

On a largely overcast and humid morning I took an amble down to Roger’s footpath and back.

Parsley and fennel

Parsley and fennel are now flowering in the bed opposite the kitchen window.


White nicotiana spreads its scent across the patio.

Rose Absolutely Fabulous

The Absolutely Fabulous rose now bears numerous fresh flowers.


Violas suspended from the entrance arch to the back drive soak up the sun’s fleeting rays.

Owl and petunias

I found that a snowy owl has been sneaked in.


Small, ground-hugging, convolvulus now straggles the verges of Downton Lane.

For the purposes of rearranging the furniture I was permitted to enter the shed this morning. If truth be told, I was probably more hindrance than help, although the Head Gardener was too kind to say so. I was taken back, however, to my very early childhood when, asking my mother if I could help with the housework, I would receive the response: ‘Yes. Sit on a chair and keep out of my way’.

We now have a reasonably tame thrush. Whether this is the result of imprinting during its fearless infancy, or because, when she discovers a nest of snails or slugs she lays them out on the path for the grateful bird, is not clear.


However, once our little friend has had its fill, it will often stand, looking hopeful, awaiting a further feed.

On TV, I watched the first, thrilling, women’s Wimbledon semi-final, in which Garbine Muguruza defeated Agnieszka Radwanska 2-1. Afterwards, Jackie drove us to Pocock’s Rose Centre in Romsey, where we bought six more scented roses. These were the white climber, Madame Alfred Carrière, shrubs purple Roseraie de l’Haye, and white Jacqueline du Pré. Two in bloom were:

Rose Creme de la Creme

pale yellow Creme de la Creme

Rose Chris Beardshaw

and delicately muted pink Chris Beardshaw.

Along Romsey Road at Copythorne stands the only building to have been granted the honour of membership of the P.G. Wodehouse Society. This is the Empress of Blandings public house named after the great comic author’s porcine character.

Empress of Blandings pub signEmpress of Blandings mural

It seemed only right and proper to photograph the pub sign and the mural quotation for Ashokbhatia, an erudite and amusing blogger who is a great Wodehouse fan. His writing on the master’s oeuvre alone are insightful and enlightening. And he has more to say besides.

We chose a different route home, and dawdled through the forest around Bolderwood. There the late afternoon sun filtered through the trees, dappling some scenes and throwing the spotlight on others.

Woodland 4Woodland 6Woodland 7

Woodland 5Woodland 8PoniesPonies up closeNew Forest ponies are not known for speed. In fact they often hardly move at all, preferring to stand and sleep or graze. When half a dozen of them rushed towards me at a trot, I was a little perturbed, and retreated to the car. So near came these creatures that I didn’t have room to open the door. This was a bit close and personal for my liking. Eventually they got the message that I wasn’t going to feed them, and cantered off along the road to find someone else to molest.

Hordle Chinese Takeaway provided our evening meal, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden Belgian beer, and I drank English Master Brewers IPA

Keeping up with Judith

On Saturday my pool of Friends to Bank on (25th. July), as I knew it would, increased by two.  Maggie offered to cash me a cheque, and Sandrine insisted I pay for all trips with one at the end of my stay.

Yesterday morning I finished the delightful ‘Wodehouse at the Wicket’, edited by Murray Hedgcock.  This consists of a brief biography of P.G.Wodehouse the cricketer, and a collection of his writings on the subject.  Whilst I found the poetry rather weak, I enjoyed the great humorist’s prose, which also managed to make tales of our national game exciting.  The book was one of two given to me by Steve at my 70th. birthday party (see 1st. July).  In the evening I began the other, ‘The Best Views from the Boundary’, compiled by Peter Baxter.  My friend had chosen considerately and well.

Backlit thistles 7.12

This was the long awaited day of the walk with Judith.  Roger dropped her off at No. 6 on the dot of 10 a.m.  She arrived in suitable walking gear carrying a backpack.  As we set off past Le Code Bar and up the Eymet road, aiming for the Munns’ home in Razac d’Eymet, Judith asked me if I liked to walk at a brisk pace.  Playing the arrogant male ex-marathon runner, conveniently forgetting my age and comparatively new left hip, ‘Yes, I do’, I rashly replied. ‘But I’m happy to walk at whatever pace you do’.  Judith quietly stepped it out up the slope past the retirement homes, and I knew I’d got a job on.  Up and down the hills at a steady scary stride she led me across the D933, or was it 993?, through St. Julien, pointing out the home of Mary and Robin who would be joining us for lunch.

There is a truism in distance running that states: ‘If you can’t talk, you are going too fast’.  Well, I managed to converse.  Just.  Actually we chatted throughout the journey,  only pausing to take sips of water on the move.  One discussion we had concerned the potential menace of loose dogs for walkers and runners alike.  Judith had received a considerable fright a couple of days ago when she had been surrounded by snarling, menacing canines whose owner, ignoring my friend’s plight, was calmly chatting to someone getting into a car.  Quite unconcerned, he eventually called them off.  Years ago, whilst running, I had had a similar experience with two Rhodesian ridgebacks.  Their owner was nowhere to be seen.  For me, there had been nothing for it but to knock on the door of the house from which they had escaped.  I hoped they wouldn’t savage me for invading their territory.  ‘They shouldn’t be out’, said the woman who answered the door.  ‘Too right’, said I.

Returning to the present, ‘I might stop to take occasional photographs’, I said.  ‘That’s fine’, my companion replied.  Even that respite was denied me.  I had forgotten my camera.  My bag contained nothing but water, wine, and a book I was returning to Keith.  Gutted.  This was a very pleasant morning with some beautiful scenes in view.  Not that I had much chance to look around me, as I concentrated on keeping abreast of Judith, and ensuring I was not reduced to watching her heels.  As we approached St. Julien, Judith pointed out the incongruity of the church tower, recently painted an excessively bright burnt sienna.  Perhaps it will weather in.

When we arrived at Razac, and Judith pointed out her home, still in the distance, I knew the end was in sight.  On entering, I sat down pretty sharpish.  In the characterful home she and Roger are building to her design, we were to be joined for lunch by the couple mentioned earlier, and other friends, Andie and Keith.  Andie had made an excellent Rita in the MADS production of ‘Educating Rita’ at Issegeac last year.  Roger’s mother is now in residence.  She looked fresh, in a pretty dress with an attractive coiffure created by a domiciliary hairdresser.

Not only had Judith set off early for the walk, she had prepared an excellent tradional roast lamb Sunday lunch, which she completed as soon as she got back, taking time out to wash and change into an attractive long dress.  I, on the other hand, not having brought a change of clothes, dried out in the sunshine.  My claim that Judith had ‘knackered me’ caused some amusement.  The alfresco meal was convivial fun, and we all tried our skill with Roger’s catapult.  Late in the afternoon, as the party disbanded, Robin and Mary drove me home.

Before going to bed I watched Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Full Metal Jacket’, an unrelentingly harrowing portrayal of military training and the exercise of the purpose for which it is intended.  Brilliant, if you can sit through it.