Wishing All My Readers Happiness In Their Own Festive Season

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Much of today was spent writing Christmas cards.

It therefore seemed appropriate to present this selection from my archives,

from which readers can choose their own with my best wishes. In order of appearance, the three Christmas cards were designed by me aged 16, 17, and 18. They represent the three kings, the shepherds, and Mary and Jesus from the Christian Nativity story.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s excellent chilli con carne, savoury rice, and vegetable samosas, with which I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

 

“C’m’ere”

This morning Jackie drove me to the bank at Lymington to order more Antipodean currency. Since it was such a bright, crisp, day we continued on to the forest.

The moors on the approach to Brockenhurst were alive with strings of ponies basking, snoozing, ambling, grazing among the browned bracken and the now naked trees.

Ponies in landscape 4

 

 

We have an expression, ‘stir your stumps’, indicating ‘get your feet moving’. If you have ever seen one of these cumbersome creatures, forelegs first, dragging hind-quarters, heaving itself to its feet, you may understand what this involves.

Cigarette end and packet on verge

Maybe a cigarette smoker had stood watching this bucolic scene; maybe just lobbed the detritus from his or her car.

Whilst the occasional equine ambled towards me, most continued their silent dining, casting shadows, and collecting bracken clinging to their mud-caked hides.

Although one turned its sleepy head in my direction, donkeys dozing by the roadside on the outskirts of the village itself, seemed oblivious of the passing traffic.

From Brockenhurst we travelled to the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive.

Most of the trees there are giant redwoods or Sequoias planted many years ago.

Impressive as are these mighty evergreens,

at this time of the year their beauty lies far below their lofty summits, among the curling bracken, the fallen leaves, and their stark shadows.

All of a sudden, the peaceful silence of the forest was shattered by a distant raucous bark. I peered through the trees, seeking an uncouth canine. I then realised that the bark spelled out “C’m’ere”. I glimpsed a woman giving chase, but no dog. I do believe a profanity was uttered. Eventually a little white pooch was clutched, harnessed, and led off without a protest.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s praiseworthy lamb jalfrezi and perfect onion rice. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank Chonch y Toro Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon 2016.

Ice Art

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With most of the rest of the country under snow, our little micro-climate had none, and was just minus two degrees when Jackie drove me out to the forest this morning.

Around Wootton and Wilverley Plain, the terrain and its pools felt freezing frosty fingers;

frigid ferns flickered;

fallen leaves lit and unlit lay lambent or shaded.

Trees, bracken, and lichen brightened as the sun rose above larger arboreal screens.

Dog walkers strode across the plain.

Steam spiralled from nostrils of cattle and ponies.

A fret saw had been applied to the small patches of frozen water scattered among layers of leaves and pebbles, producing delicate ice art.

The way we live now means that friends and relatives dropping in on spec is largely a thing of the past. That our niece, Danni does this periodically is therefore doubly pleasurable, because she is, of course, delightful company, and knows a thing or two about the use of computers.

We enjoyed convivial company for an hour or two and she was able to confirm that I wasn’t doing anything wrong in trying to search out receipt of a recorded delivery letter I had sent to a partner of O’Neill Patient, the solicitors who had provided such appalling service over the remortgage. Almost a month after sending the letter I had received no reply, so, this morning sent a rather shirty e-mail. The response was that they had never received the letter.

After spending the best part of half an hour on the phone to Royal Mail, I learned that the letter had never been delivered, and had neither been kept by them nor returned to me. Apologies were profuse. I then sent another e-mail apologising for the tone of my first, sending a copy of the letter, and stating that, when the recipient had read it, he would understand why I had assumed that it had been received but not reached his desk.

Later this afternoon I collected the currency from the bank and posted it to Australia.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s famed chicken jalfrezi and pilau rice. My wife drank Hoegaarden and I drank Mendoza Parra Alta Malbec 2016.

“Look, He’s Posing”

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This morning Jackie drove us to Lymington for me to take photographs that might be suitable for the walls of Lal Quilla restaurant. Raj had asked me for some a couple of days ago.

I began with a few featuring the building itself.

Gosport Road

The surrounding area includes Gosport Street, and

Quay Hill,

Painter Quay Hill

where the painter working on Sophie’s stopped to pass the time of day with a passer-by.

Quay Hill 1

 The King’s Head stands on the corner diagonally opposite Lal Quilla, at the point at which the High Street turns at right angles into Gosport Street. The tavern’s website tells us that

‘Despite dating back at least 300 years, many of the original features of The Kings Head can still be seen today.

The pub is known to have originally also been a bakers back in the day and even now the old bakers oven is still standing, along with the old well which is featured at the centre of the pub.

When you visit The Kings Head you will see the long-lasting beams made from Napoleonic Ships that only add to the character of this old English pub.

The pretty courtyard that we see today was previously used for fish-drying, whilst the buildings adjacent to the yard were an abattoir and fishermans house.

Despite these drastic changes over time, the inside of the pub has remained somewhat the same and the great open fire that cannot be missed is at least 300 years old.

It is these characteristics that, when you visit, make it easy to imagine the pub back in the 18th Century as a regular haunt for the smugglers and sailors that would frequent this famous sailing town.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you may even see one of the old regulars who used to pick up pots in exchange for ‘grog’ as he has been said to return occasionally as the pubs very own friendly ghost…’

I doubt that Raj, the manager, would want all the pictures I have produced, such as those of two alleys that can be seen from inside the restaurant, but I did need to indulge myself.

Quay Street lies at the bottom of Quay Hill. The driver who left his van at bottom right of the second picture was to be disappointed when he attempted to deliver a package to a closed shop. Winter hours in these establishments are somewhat restricted. The Boat House Café featured in the first scene is where we brunched,

People on bench

after I had wandered along the quay photographing a row of people seated on a bench;

Young woman on wall

a young woman crouching cross-legged on a concrete wall;

Shadow of young woman

and another casting a long shadow as our paths crossed.

Train crossing harbour

The train aiming for the Isle of Wight ferry traversed the harbour.

Lymington Quay 1

A pair of oriental tourists walked towards The Ship Inn,

the windows of which rippled in the water.

We drove on through the forest and found ourselves at Pilley Bailey, where, knee deep in water or autumn leaves, a group of ponies enjoyed their alfresco lunch.

Pony crossing road

One of these animals decided to cross the road. As I turned to watch it, I noticed

a trio of alpaca and dog walkers.

Alpaca walkers 4

One of the ungulates stopped still, staring in my direction. “Look, he’s posing”, cried his guide, as she strained at the leash.

Clouds on horizon

We were a little late to catch the sunset at Barton on Sea, but the bank of clouds resting on the horizon gave a differently dramatic effect.

This evening Jackie, for our dinner, produced roast chicken, mashed potato, green and runner beans, cauliflower, carrots, and ratatouille. She drank sparkling water and I drank Chateau Bonhomme Minervois 2016.

 

Waiting For A Bus

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This afternoon, Jackie drove us around the forest.

On the outskirts of Brockenhurst a troop of cattle exercised their right to hold up the traffic.

River Lymington

Over Lymington River

Swing over Lymington River

a swing has been suspended from a tree bearing

a lengthy lichen-laden limb kept out of the water by a complicated system of rigging.

Pool and reflections

A pool is filling up on the other side of the road.

Crow on shrub

Wherever we go we are likely to see a crow perched high enough to explain the term ‘a crow’s nest’.

This one could observe ponies chomping whilst waiting for a bus.

Ponies on moor 1

I was just thinking how sleepy one of the animals looked, when it turned and yawned in my direction.

An isolated individual had no competition for the grazing on the other side of the road.

Sun, tree, pool

At East Boldre, the sight of the sun behind a tree mirrored in a pool,

 

encouraged us to return in time to watch the sun drop down below the horizon

and deepen the red, gold, and indigo hues above.

Ponies keeping the grass down here were oblivious of the beauty above.

This evening we dined on fishcakes, one Thai, and one parsley and cheese, served on a bed of onions, peppers, tomato, and garlic; with runner beans, carrots, and cauliflower. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and I finished the Malbec.

On The Trail

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At first light this morning Jackie drove us down to the clifftop at Milford on Sea to watch the sunrise.

Isle of Wight and The Needles before sunrise

The forest behind the Isle of Wight and The Needles was a bank of clouds. The lighthouse blinked.

Sunrise 1

Soon

Sunrise with gull

a pink lining

Sunrise with gulls

came into view

Sunrise 2

over

Sunrise 3

 

to the east.

Walker at sunrise 1

Just two lone walkers

Walker at sunrise 2

braved the two degrees centigrade temperature at 7 a.m.

This afternoon we visited the New Milton toy shop to investigate Christmas presents, and decided that we needed parental advice.

Afterwards we drove into the forest.

Ponies

On the way down Holmsley Passage Jackie spotted

Ponies

a string of ponies

Ponies

crossing a ridge. Watch the wavy lines in the bracken to the right.

Ponies

She parked

Ponies

beside the stream on the lowest part of the lane, while I watched

Ponies

as the ponies

Ponies

dropped onto

Ponies

what was a trail

Ponies

they had regularly trodden.

Ponies

It was fortunate

Ponies

for me that there were a couple of greys to help me pick them out against the bracken

Ponies

 or, as they reached level ground, among the trees.

Pony

The black leader came into view and investigated the road;

Ponies

when it was pronounced clear, the others followed

Ponies

and were led

Ponies

past

Ponies

a delighted Jackie

Ponies

in the car.

Ponies

Having crossed to the other side

Ponies

they reappeared on higher ground.

Reflections in pool

Further on, up the road to Clay Hill reflections in the calm pool

Reflections in pool

were clear and bright.

Sunset

On our return the sun was setting over Holmsley;

Sunset

blazing clouds shrouded Wootton Common,

Moon and clouds

where the moon was in the ascendancy.

Trees and sunset

Trellises of tree branches

Trees and sunset

screened the pink and indigo backcloth.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s wonderful savoury rice forming a bed for tempura prawns. We both drank Maison Castel Touraine sauvignon blanc 2015.

 

Almost Blown Away

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James, of Peacock Computers, visited to examine the iMac, and took it away to restore it to working order. In anticipation of the Apple’s removal, I had scanned a set of photographic prints from May 1993 onto the Windows laptop. We had also thought the weather would be bad this afternoon and I would be able to use these to illustrate today’s post. In the event, the sun shone and the winds were high enough, at more than 50 m.p.h. to suggest a trip into the forest. The 1993 set will appear tomorrow.

Cattle on hillside

A short distance  outside East End cattle grazed on a hillside that was topped by an oak tree sporting a car tyre.

Falabella

The little falabella pony which

Ponies at poolside

sometimes joins its cousins outside St Leonard’s Grange,

Falabella pony

 

spent its time crossing from one side of the road to the other.

Ponies on road

Another just stayed in the road.

Ruin in silhouette

When we reached this point, one of the ruins of the granary was nicely silhouetted

Ruin before sunset

against the lowering sun, bestowing a sepia tone.

Pheasants

We continued along the road, intending to return for sunset. Pheasants chased each other across the lanes and the autumnal fields.

Ruin at sunset

On our return golden streaks stretched along the sky.

Skyscape

We took a diversion down Tanners Lane on our journey home. Those streaks had deepened over the Isle of Wight.

Windsurfer

The winds pressed so strongly against the car door that it felt as if it was close to a wall. Just one other vehicle was parked in front of us. Perhaps it belonged to the windsurfer

Windsurfer

who skimmed over the choppiest waves we have ever seen there,

Windsurfer

constantly changing

Windsurfer

direction, and almost blown away.

This evening we dined on Jackie;s gorgeously spicy chilli con carne, with her most savoury rice wearing an omelette jacket. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank Mendoza Parra Alta malbec 2016.