A Little Bit O’ Bloomin’ Luck

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Today began dark, wet, and windy. Thinking we would be unable to do much more in the garden we transported the results of yesterday’s crab apple pruning to Efford Recycling Centre.

Plant pots

As is the Head Gardener’s wont, she bought two more fibreglass faux terra cotta plant pots from the sales area.

The sun did put in brief appearance this afternoon, so I was able to present a snapshot of the first official day of Spring.

Jackie has also started buying plants, like these violas,

Snakes head fritillaries

and these snake’s head fritillaries just plonked in an urn for the moment.

Kitchen bed 1

Both are visible in this shot of the kitchen bed.

Camellias 1

These camellias shed their confetti-like petals on the Dead End Path.

Garden view from Margery's Bed

Others are visible on either side of the decking in this view beyond Margery’s Bed;

Dragon Bed 1

more in the Palm Bed;

Head Gardener's Walk 1

and beside the Head Gardener’s walk which also displays cyclamens.

These two were buried in darkness when we arrived three years ago. Now they are able to flower,

Dragon Bed 1

being visible from across the Dragon Bed.

Head Gardener's Walk 2

Figures lining the walk include dragons and a cherub.

There are, of course, hellebores and daffodils everywhere;

Pulmonaria

and pulmonaria, such as these clambering over a brick boundary.

Mahonia

A small mahonia planted last year is thriving along the back drive,

Vinca and hellebores

where a periwinkle has been stencilled on our neighbours’ wall.

A little bit of luck is essential to a successful photoshoot. As I was focussing on the garden it was appropriate that mine today should be blooming.

Epimedium 1

I was unhappy with my first shot at the epimediums, so I went back out to make some more efforts.

Then came my first ‘little bit o’ bloomin’ luck’. A bee had decided it was now warm and dry enough to flit from bloom to bloom.

As I clicked away at this insect, I received a second stroke. More clicking above my head alerted me to the fact that a pair of long-tailed tits were using the weeping birch branches as trapezes.

This warranted a tribute to Stanley Holloway:

This evening we dined on our second helpings of yesterday’s Chinese takeaway with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Callia magna Malbec 2014.

Out Of The Dark

On another unseasonably mild day, I wandered around the garden with my camera, picking

Allium

allium,

Daffodil

daffodil,

Camellia 1Camellia 2

camellias,

Viburnum rhytidophyllum

viburnum rhytidophyllum,

Periwinkle

periwinkle,

Bergenia

and bergenia.

This afternoon we drove through the forest to Burley. On the way we stopped at a New Forest car park for a short walk with Scooby.

Ponies always gather round the parked cars because there is always a reasonable chance of hands offering titbits on the ends of arms extended from open windows. So it was today, until a family turned the tables and advanced on the ponies in great excitement.

Family tracking ponies 1Family tracking ponies 2Ponies leaving

It wasn’t long before the animals turned tail,

Ponies in landscape

only to return to their habitual patch of heathland when the coast was clear.

Gorse bush, man, and boy

A track, up which various walkers clambered, led down to a valley below.

Skyscape with poniesSkyscape with poolSkyscape with tree

Still an hour away from sunset, we were treated to some interesting skyscapes.

It was not yet 4.00 p.m. by the time we arrived in Burley, but the targeted tea rooms were closed. We therefore sought refreshment in the Burley Inn. Mine was a pint of Flack’s Double Drop.

Still not 5.00 p.m., we returned home in the dark. As we left the village and entered the less than broad, unlit roads across the forest, a stream of traffic approaching on our right, Jackie hit the brakes. Out of the dark, a black and grey pony appeared, in the Modus’s dipped headlights, ambling straight towards me on the passenger side. My chauffeuse barely had room to swerve around the beast to slip between that and the oncoming traffic.

Becky, two cars behind, was treated to a similar experience. This was our closest encounter yet.

This evening, Jackie, for our dinner, produced tender roast lamb, roast parsnips, Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, perfect carrots and Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower cheese. Apple crumble would have followed had anyone left enough room for it. Becky and Ian drank rose and I finished the El Sotillo.

Kind Of Blue

Aaron sawing wood

Aaron brought a friend to help today so he could finish by lunchtime. They sawed up the wood pile, then replanted a clump of grass roots which had been removed from the back drive some weeks ago, and, despite attempts to burn it, had refused to die. I understand that the Australian eucalyptus needs the heat of a forest fire to germinate its seeds. Maybe our grass is related to that tree.Grass rootsLog store

I managed to clear a space by the side of the house for the logs to be stacked before wandering around the garden with my camera.

Focussing on our profusion of blue-hued flowers, and thinking of Giles who enjoys them, I photographed:

Forget-me-nots

forget-me-nots,

Periwinkle

periwinkles,

Grape hyacinths

grape hyacinths,

Violas

violets,

Celandines

celandines,

Pansies

and pansies.

Whilst preparing this post I listened to what is probably the finest recording of spontaneous jazz improvisation ever made. During two sessions in 1959 Miles Davis, the legendary trumpeter, led a group including Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderly, Paul Chambers, James Cobb, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and Wynton Kelly, in the production of the album ‘Kind of Blue’.Kind of Blue

Evans, in his original programme notes, writes: ‘Miles conceived these settings only hours before the recording dates and arrived with sketches which indicated to the group what was to be played. Therefore you will hear something close to pure spontaneity in these performances. The group had never played these pieces prior to the recordings and I think without exception the first complete performance of each was a “take”.’

I you don’t have access to a copy, try it on YouTube.

This afternoon Flo continued her wildlife garden photography.

Bee on pulmonaria

Unaware of my blue theme, she featured a bee on pulmonaria.

White butterfly

She also captured a white butterfly on the wing,

Long-tailed tit

a tightrope-walking long-tailed tit,

Greenfinch

a greenfinch on a feeding tray,

Hoverfly

and a resting hoverfly.

Norman's parrot

She even threw in a shot of Norman’s parrot, which now hangs in our kitchen.

Eric

Finally, she persuaded Eric to pose for his portrait.

This evening we dined out on Ian.

Not literally. He just paid for it. He took us on a visit to La Viña in Lymington. It was a most enjoyable tapas bar. The food was excellent and the service extremely friendly if a little tardy. I can’t really detail the dishes because they were in Spanish, but they included a mixed paella, calamari, sardines, chorizo, asparagus, fried potatoes, meat balls and tortilla. Jackie and Ian drank Estrella beer; Becky and I shared a bottle of tempranillo; and Flo drank apple juice.

Relocation

This morning I added three informative Facebook link comments, one from Becky, one from Lesley O’Neill, and one from Jackie herself, to yesterday’s post.Mice suffragettes

Some of you will remember the nomadic mice from Christmas. Having joined the suffragette mousement, they have now taken up a position on the sitting room window sill.Pheasant

Albeit out of focus and through an upstairs window pane, I was today able to shoot the pheasant which was wandering around the garden as if he owned it. In an attempt to take a clearer photograph, I then walked out into the garden. By this time it was nowhere to be seen, until it squawked, flapped, and lumbered off like the R101, from the next door jungle.

Carpet

Before lunch we drove to Molly’s Den in search of a birthday present, and bought, at a good price, a hand-woven Afghan rug from Khiva for ourselves. The design apparently dates from the 18th century.Downton Lane pines and number 27Downton Lane oaks

This afternoon I set off to walk down Downton Lane. I got no further than Roger’s footpath before retracing my steps to the back drive where I had noticed I had a job to to. Number 27 and its pines basked in the sunshine, as did the still naked oaks.CrocusesPeriwinkle

We now have yellow crocuses and a spread of periwinkles of various types. A crow took off from our mature copper beach, itself still leafless.CrowInsect hotel remains

Most of the insect Hilton hotel rooms have now been stolen. Perhaps, given the number of wood burning fires in the area, I should not have been surprised. Especially as a couple of days ago I watched a van take the diagonal across the end of our drive into the care home on the corner, I decided to relocate the log pile to the safety of the rose garden plot.insect hotel relocated

My original structure had filled five wheelbarrow loads. In retrieving what was left I barely completed two. At least that made the task a little easier.

This evening we dined on Mr Pink’s superb takeaway fish and chips with pickled onions and mushy peas. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the rioja.

A Short History Of England

PeriwinkleA warm wind swept through overcast Downton and across The Solent this morning when I took my usual walk to Hordle Cliff top and back. Sheltered among the hedgerows, perky periwinkle still trails along the ground.

On my return, I wrote the rest of my share of our Christmas cards and put them in the post.

Simon Jenkins, a former editor of The Times, having completed his six year stint, has recently retired as Chairman of The National Trust. It was in association with that body that Profile Books published his ‘A Short History of England’ in 2011. I finished reading it this afternoon. Jenkins has a thorough grasp of the story of how today’s England has emerged, from the Dark Ages of the fifth century, when the Angles arrived from Germany, to the date of publication.

He writes, in a clear, simple, elegant, and often humorous style, of the country’s heroes; villains; triumphs; disasters; conflicts, both internal and external; and its development into global prominence then partial eclipse. He unravels for the lay reader key individuals and events in our history. Anyone, for example, who can clarify ‘The Wars of The Roses’, as he does, is worthy of admiration.

This concise yet comprehensive single volume deserves to be read by anyone with a wish to understand English history. All is intelligible, and such quotations as are included are brief, illustrative, and pithy. Having sometimes thought their use in history books is rather more to fill out the text than to lend it credibility, I found this refreshing.

Packed with colour illustrations, all of which are credited, the book has a useful index and appendices of 100 key dates; Kings and Queens; and Prime Ministers.History of England jacket

Naturally the choice of the four personages chosen to adorn the book jacket could be debated, but it is interesting all the same. From left to right we have King Edward III, undoubtedly the greatest mediaeval king; Queen Elizabeth I, who gave her name to a Golden Age; King Charles I, who was executed by his people; and Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, who saw us through the Second World War.

This evening yesterday’s delicious curry meal was, with its beverages, reprised today. As always, it had improved with keeping.

Rabbits And A Slow Worm

The wind still raged after a stormy night. I walked down to the Spar shop and back for strawberry jam to accompany scones for the visit of Michael, Heidi, Emily and Alice. They didn’t have any so I settled for blackcurrant.Choppy breakersPeriwinkleFountains

Choppy breakers on the Solent, a good mile away, could be seen from Downton Lane, where plants such as periwinkle, even in the shelter of the hedgerow, quivered precariously before the blasts.

Droplets from the otherwise uninspired fountains in Shorefield Country Park sparkled in the occasional bright sunlight as they were blown across the disturbance of the surface of the pool.

Clematis montana and lilacAccording to the poet Alfred Noyes, Kew, which ‘isn’t far from London’, is worth a visit at lilac time. We are quite a way from London, but we have a few lilacs in the garden, as well as various clematis, most of which are entwined among trees and other shrubs. One such is the montana shown here.

Jackie put on a splendid lunch for us and our visitors. Broccoli and Stilton soup was followed by pizza and garlic bread, before an array of cold meats, cheeses and various salad ingredients.

Michael, Heidi, and the girls accompanied me on a walk to the beach.Slow worm A slow worm slithering across the tarmac on the path to the rookery caused some consternation. It looked so much like a snake.Alice, Isle of Wight & The Needles

After descending the steps from the cliff top we continued along the shingle to the Hordle Cliff car park where Jackie met us. Heidi joined Jackie on the return in the car and the rest of us walked back.Rooks & nestHeidi, Michael, Emily & AliceMichael, Derrick, Emily & Alice

Like the rooks, battling against the buffeting wind, we struggled to maintain our line. Guess who took the pictures.

Alice photographing a rabbitAlice stopped on the way back to photograph rabbits scuttling about among the static caravans in the country park. When she got home she e-mailed me some of her pictures:Rabbit by Alice 1Rabbit by Alice 2Rabbit by Alice 3Rabbit by Alice 4

After a quick cup of tea and scones I accompanied Michael and his family to New Milton railway station where we deposited Emily on a train for her journey back to Nottingham to rejoin her university. The rest of us then returned for more tea at our leisure before my son, daughter-in-law and younger granddaughter set off back to Sanderstead.

I had forgotten to give Michael his belated birthday present, so telephoned him and he returned to collect it and continued on his way.

This evening the remainder of the super soup sufficed for our supper.

A Further Piece Of Quirkiness

3rd April 2014

PeriwinkleOn a wander round the garden this morning, I added periwinkle to the photographic gallery of our plants.

Curry/PC World delivered the fridge/freezer promptly as promised. Until they came we continued moving stuff around. This involved carting some furniture upstairs.

I telephoned Neff customer support line in an unsuccessful attempt to be talked through disenabling the child lock on the hobs. Although the woman who tried to help me was very helpful it didn’t seem to work. It was fun seeking out the relevant model number, which would enable her to know how to advise me. This, you see, was on the underside of the equipment that now formed part of the kitchen surface. Clearly I had to take out the drawer underneath, but then, how was I to read the figures? Lying prostrate on the worktop and sticking my head into the narrow space didn’t seem to be an option.

Jackie gathering flowersThis is where the Canon S100 camera came into its own. I held it under the plate, and after several goes, managed to obtain one image that was not too blurred for me to read the number.

Later in the morning we gathered up some spring flowers to take to Pippa in Spencers as a token of our thanks. This personable young woman found time to have a friendly conversation.

We then visited Costa coffee for some Wi-Fi time, and I posted my blog entry for 1st. An antique shop didn’t have a suitable replacement door knocker. If you are thinking of visiting before we find one, flip the letterbox repeatedly and yell loudly.

Back home we continued the cleaning and sorting. I then tackled the scary task of attempting to set up the home hub in preparation for its activation tomorrow. It remains to be seen how successful I have been. In the process I think I discovered a further piece of quirkiness. The previous owner had his office in the living room where there is a television aerial socket, but, as far as we can tell, no telephone point. The only place allocated for a telephone appears to be in the bedroom above. In the hope that we will be able to access the hub wirelessly through the ceiling, I set up the telephone and hub, I hope, in the upper room. Our predecessor definitely used his laptop in the room below. If that doesn’t work for us we may not be able to contain our screams of anguish.

My next task was to clear a path to the washing machine. This was no mean undertaking.

In the evening we set out on a search for any Chinese restaurant that was not Lotus in New Milton. There were a number of takeaways scattered about, but we felt we had earned a sit down. Following circuitous diversions across the forest, we were led to the Yenz in Brockenhurst which was very classy. The establishment was rightly proud of its head chef. The food was excellent, and the T’Sing Tao beer thirst quenching.

Back at Old Post House we just about managed to climb the stairs to bed.