The Path To Deadman Hill

The day before yesterday I finished reading

being the final novel in the trilogy of the Larkin family, first featured in “Freak Of Fate” in which I described the first book; how I came by it; and the amazing coincidence of the address on the flyleaf, also borne by this Book Club edition published by Michael Joseph in 1960.

In his now familiar rollicking style the author continues to relate the cheerfully energetic romp through life of Pop Larkin, his friends and family. I have now realised that one of the chief pleasures of these stories is the ease with which Bates weaves beautiful bucolic descriptions into his innocently scandalous narrative. For the Larkins, life really is “perfickly” beautiful. Maybe, only 15 years after the ending of the Second World War, that is what the world needed.

This morning we visited Bill and Helen to exchange birthday presents.

We diverted to Abbotswell, near Frogham, on our way home, then decided to lunch at The Fighting Cocks at Godshill.

In the deeply pockmarked gravelled car park at the top of Abbotswell hill a couple of riders were persuading two splendid, reluctant, black horses into their trailered transport which, with their weight, seemed certain to increase the potholes.

I took a short walk among the undulating woodlands overlooking the sloping landscape below.

As always in such terrain it was necessary to tread gingerly over tree roots.

Bees swarmed among wild blackberry blossoms.

Cattle and ponies congregated in the valley below.

A lone cyclist sped along a footpath

and re-emerged on the path to Deadman Hill on the other side of Roger Penny Way. To think that just four years ago I would take that walk without thinking about it.

My lunch at the pub consisted of steak and ale pie, chips, and peas; Jackie’s was mushroom stroganoff with which she drank Hop House lager. My drink was Ringwood’s Best.

Long haired miniature ponies groped their way across the greens beside Cadnam Lane where

an enterprising hairdresser had given a bug-eyed tree stump an impressive Mohican.

The Head Gardener has a little friend in the form of a juvenile robin that follows her around during the day and has taken to joining us on the patio for a drink in the evening. Jackie, on this occasion, drank Hoegaarden, I drank sparkling water, and Robin drank water from a flower pot saucer.

After this, Jackie and I dined on pepperoni pizza and salad; Robin probably finished off what was clinging to his beak.

The Long Jump

For the last few days we have been unable to control the smart aspect of our TV. This has meant we could only watch free to air live and nothing would record. James Peacock of Peacock Computers fixed the problem this morning. Intermittently I listened to England’s innings against New Zealand in the men’s Cricket World Cup.

This afternoon we went for a drive in the east of the forest.

One of the lessons we have needed to learn is when to expect animals to cross the road in front of us. An example of this was found today at East Boldre. Jackie slowed the car for us to see a foal. Suddenly its mother took it upon herself to lead her offspring to the other side.

Litter picking is quite an industry here. The major roads are cleared by paid staff, but areas like Hatchet Pond rely on volunteers. This group enabled their dog to participate by tossing a stick into the lake. The branch was constantly retrieved.

We have come to the conclusion, confirmed today, that the small birds, like thrushes, often dogging ponies’ footsteps, are gleaning worms and other food revealed by the equine activity. Unfortunately I have managed to lose the photograph of a bird with a worm in its beak.

One spritely youngster, from its vantage point on a pony’s shoulders took a leap over the animal’s long, concave back, landing on its sturdy rump.

On Sway Road we were held up by an encounter between a double decker bus and a very long container truck. We had to admire the skill of these two drivers. No doubt the bus driver was accustomed to the situation. It was the man in the truck who had to become a tree hugger and reach out to haul in his wing mirrors before inching ahead.

On our return I listened to the bulk of New Zealand’s innings.

This evening we dined at The Wheel, Bowling Green, Pennington. We both enjoyed starters of Tempura prawns, salad, and sweet chilli dip. Jackie’s excellent Wheel Inn burger, salad, and chips featured the best onion rings she has ever tasted; my cod, chips, and peas was equally good. Mrs. Knight drank Kaltenberg, and I drank Ringwood’s Best. Service was efficient and friendly.

On Eyeworth Pond

Much of this very hot day was taken up with dead heading and watering.

Soon after 4 p.m. Jackie drove us to Eyeworth Pond and back.

At this time, ponies and cattle, although they did emerge later, made use of what shade they could find. These were spotted en route to Fritham,

where other cattle lay down in their field.

Foals are growing up fast. On a green above the pond this one manages its own grooming.

Water lilies are now beginning to bloom on the pond,

where a few ducks paddled.

Most of these birds, however,

occupied a dormitory on the bank.

Bright sunlight produces abstract reflections on the surface.

Motley cattle grazed on the hillside as we drove back up to Fritham and, via Hordle Chinese Take Away, to home.

With our usual excellent fare from Mr Chan, we both drank Tsing Tao beer this evening.

Finding Its Feet

Lidl and Aldi are gaining ground in the war to control England’s Supermarket custom. Their quality is very good and their prices very low. There is no finesse in their layout of goods, and there is no guarantee that an item on sale in the central aisles will be in stock the next day. General groceries are usually in regular supply.

This morning, on a regular shopping trip to Lidl, Jackie bought me a linen/cotton blend shirt for £7.99. She would have bought another had she been certain that XXL would fit. It did. This afternoon we returned for another. She left me in the car and entered the store to investigate. The stock had been replenished.

She returned with five more. As she was about to drive off she casually mentioned that there was a linen jacket she hadn’t bought because I would have had to try it on. I took the hint and left her in the car so I could attempt the purchase.

By this time the jackets were strewn all over the racks. None were in their boxes because they had all been tried on.

My rummage revealed that there was just one that fitted me. I bought it Jackie asked how much it had cost. “£19.99″was my reply. “Crikey, that’s very nearly twenty quid,” was her response.

We continued into the forest where, at Frogham, we encountered more baby donkeys.

One was quite elegantly sedate.

The other was far more wobbly. As it slid along the back of the Modus it slipped and fell under the side of the car. Jackie turned on the ignition and I called out to her not to move. She turned the engine off and our little friend extricated itself, rolled over, and commenced clattering backwards and forwards along the tarmac, narrowly missing my sandalled feet. It was certainly finding its own.

It then sandwiched itself between another vehicle and a walking couple who eventually continued their trip along the road. The local woman expressed the view that this creature had probably been born today or yesterday.

From the high point of Abbotswell we looked down on ponies, foals, and cattle basking in the sunshine;

field horses did the same thing beside Blissford Road;

and, nearer home, ponies were silhouetted on Birchy Hill.

This evening we dined on creamy, tangy lasagna with plentiful fresh salad. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Squinzano.

The Biter Bit

After lunch on this overcast and humid day we took a short drive through the forest; our route was up and down

Rhinefield Ornamental Drive,

along which travelled many cyclists,

two of whom, giving me a sense of the biter bit, stopped to photograph

a group of ponies surrounding our car which they licked lasciviously.

We were slightly alarmed at the number of barbecues flaming and smoking on the green near Boldrewood Deer Sanctuary.

Later this afternoon Elizabeth and Frances visited. Struggling with a problematic printer I produced copies of two of yesterday’s photographs for our sister-in-law. The four of us then dined at Faros Greek Restaurant in Milford on Sea where the food and service was as pleasing as on our last visit. I began with Kalamari; my main course was Kleftico; and my dessert galaktoboureko. I can’t speak for the others – after all, I have remembered the name of my sweet – except that Jackie drank a Greek beer and the rest of us shared a bottle of red wine the name of which escapes me.

A staff member volunteered to take this photograph of us all in which perspective is a little unkind.

First Donkey Foals

Jackie has not neglected the front garden in her clearing and planting of the last few days. This morning I gathered and bagged up her cuttings from the gravel path.

Erigerons, day lilies, Hot Chocolate rose and fuchsia feature here.

Clematises, nasturtiums, petunias, lobelias, and solanum currently bloom in front of the garage door.

This afternoon we left the sunshine behind at home as steady rain tracked us to the North of the forest.

Coats glistening, a trio of ponies took shelter among trees at Ibsley;

further on, at Frogham, more shaggy yet bedraggled donkeys, including our first foals of the season found their own shelter.

This evening we dined on minted lamb burgers; potatoes pulverised into a creamy mash; crunchy carrots and broccoli; and tender green beans with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Pinot Noir.

Mutual Grooming

This morning I printed a copy of this photograph for Aaron;

I then e-mailed this image, taken from “Sherwood Forest Snowballs”, to Michael’s children;

and scanned and sent this print of Michael and Louisa taken at Oxton in May 1999 to my daughter.

This afternoon we took a short drive in the forest, ending up at Burnt House Lane, Pilley where we helped Elizabeth and Mum sort some of our mother’s belongings.

Cattle foraging on the verges wandered onto the road at Sowley;

Further on, a miniature pony joined the big girls on the road in front of us.

Dog roses are now prolific on the hedgerows.

Valerian clings to the walls of St Leonards Barn.

Nearby a phalanx of cyclists sped down and up a steeply concave hill confronting us in such a manner that Jackie was forced to stop and let them pass.

Pilley Street was occupied by a swarm of donkeys, some of whom, not realising it was Sunday, waited listlessly for a bus; another pair engaged in mutual grooming.

There was enough left over from last night’s takeaway Indian meal for us to dine on that before setting off to Evereton Nurseries where I was to

collect my prize for the Festival photographic competition from Louis. Unfortunately my three digital images had not been considered, because the organisers had been locked out of the e-mail account and did not know who had entered. They asked those they thought might have entered to resubmit. They didn’t know about me. The winner was one of those digital entries. It was not on display. Never mind, I received a round of applause and an engraved glass.

Elizabeth came for the presentation and returned home with us to drink more of the Galodoro. Naturally I Christened my prize.