A Dictionary Battle

Planted tubs 1Planted tubs 2

A very dull afternoon was brightened by the tubs at the front that Jackie had planted up in the morning; and the trills of songbirds in the trees, as I wandered around the garden.Goldfinch

iPhoto, aided by the Canon SX700 HS lens, helped me to transform a tiny black silhouette high up in a tree into a colourful goldfinch. The computer’s dictionary found this bird far more acceptable than yesterday’s greenfinches which it had insisted on changing to goldfinches. After a battle it allowed my word provided I accepted red underlining in the draft. I trust it is happy now.Back drive

Yesterday Aaron continued with his transformation of the back drive. He has now completed one side and most of the other one. Excess soil has been transferred to the verges and to the rose garden. I had dug out some of the bricks you see in the picture from what was then the kitchen garden. Many of the concrete slabs removed from there have been recycled elsewhere, and now that it has become a two way traffic I am reminded of my mother’s phrase: ‘You are playing put and take’, which she applied when we children were carrying out a similar process for one reason or another.

Mum was referring to the title of a game that first became known during the First World War (1914-18).
‘The full history of the game is unclear but It is thought to have been invented by a soldier in the trenches.
The original game was made from a brass bullet that the soldier shaped into a spinning top with six sides.
Each side had an instruction on that was either Put one, Put two, Put all, Take one ,Take Two, or Take all.
The top was spun by players, who each put an ante in the pot (said to be a cigarette), and depending on how the top fell
either took or put how many cigarettes indicated.
The game became so popular that during the 1920-30s it was introduced as a gambling Game and was predominantly played
in the North of England in Working mens clubs and pubs. Because the top would last virtually forever, being made of brass,
the production of the game did not last for long and during the next 40 years the playing of the game gradually died out.

Any number of players can play. Each player puts a coin or chip in the pot.
The first player spins the top. If the top come down “Put” side uppermost the player puts into the pot the amount indicated (i.e. Put one two or All).
For “Put All” the player doubles the amount in the pot. If the spinner lands with “Take” side uppermost the player takes the amount indicated from the pot.
For Take All the player takes the whole pot.
The next player spins and the game goes on until somebody spins “Take All” and the game is re-started with a new Ante.’

The game is still popular today. Here is a modern version of the soldier’s bullet:top-pt_18


The small blue irises are multiplying; the previously pruned prunus is flowering; and the pink striped camellia is in full bloom.Pheasant

Our stately visiting pheasant frequently stretches its talons around the garden. Later this afternoon I was able to get a bead on it through the kitchen window as it pecked up spilled scraps from the greenfinches’ feeder. As soon as I joined it in the garden, it flailed its forelimbs, and flapped off in a flurry far over neighbouring firs. I do hope no-one shoots it before I get it properly in focus.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s charming cottage pie, with piquant cauliflower cheese (recipe), crisp carrots and cabbage; followed by crunchy raspberry crumble. She refrained from imbibing, whilst I finished the Cotes du Rhone Villages.



A Squabble Of Seagulls

The air was much colder today, and the weak sun only briefly penetrated the mist after mid-day.Misty landscape Even late in the morning, as I walked to Lyndhurst via Mill Lane and Pikes Hill, the Pony & prunusPonylandscape beyond the first layer of trees was obscured. At the top of Mill Lane one pony chomped under a flowering prunus whilst another looked as if it had done battle with a bramble.
Horse & foalFurther on a mare and her lanky adolescent offspring ceased nuzzling each other to wander across and pass the time of the day with me as I leant on a wooden five-barred gate.
The plan today was that I would walk to the Post Office in Lyndhurst to arrange postal redirection, and retire to the car park where Jackie would meet me with the Modus. In the event, I made good progress and didn’t take long in the Post Office, so I was half an hour early and sat on a bench watching the people go by.Mother & child A mother was teaching her little daughter how to cross the road, by looking both ways I imagine.
I had phoned Malachi a couple of days ago to ask him what he would like me to send him from England for his birthday. He thought ‘something to do with stars’ would be ‘cool’. I was very surprised to find just the thing in Lyndhurst, so it looks as if another trip to the Post Office will be in order to send the parcel to Perth.
Jackie drove us on to Milford on Sea for lunch in the Needles Eye cafe, from which the Isle of Wight and its Needles were not visible.
Gravel QuarryGravel quarry roadGravel quarry road 2
Passing through Downton we stopped to investigate the entrance to a quarry which was not far from our new house. Gravel is being excavated a good distance from the house, and I was reassured by the gentleman on site who, reasonably enough, wondered why I was taking photographs.
Seagulls squbblingSeagulls victorious
There are a number of posts along the beach at Milford on Sea bearing notices warning of underwater obstruction. Each of these when we arrived was occupied by a gull. One of these perches was in dispute. The resident was assailed by two rivals. A noisy three for all ensued.Seagulls squabbling in the air Before the argument was settled it was continued on the wing. When the victor reclaimed its throne it kept swivelling its head around, keeping alert and ready to repel further boarders. In case you didn’t know, the collective noun for seagulls is a squabble.
After lunch we drove back through Downton and stopped off to visit Apple Court Nursery and Garden which is very near where our new home will be. Rightly termed ‘one of Hampshire’s loveliest gardens’ it is a well established all the year round garden on which the owners and staff were working in earnest. Only open from March to October on Fridays, weekends and bank holidays, we will certainly visit it again. Jackie found it particularly helpful in learning what is likely to thrive in our new garden. The answer is most plants that like a neutral soil. Today we saw a quantity of spring bulbs, camellias, magnolias, and euphorbia.CarpCarp abstract
Particularly impressive was the Japanese garden with its small lake filled with monstrous carp.
Back home I dined on chilli con carne (recipe) whilst Jackie enjoyed a tamer chicken curry (recipe). I drank Campo Viejo rioja 2012.

Itching To Be Off

Rabbit damage to lawnThe lower lawns at Castle Malwood Lodge have the appearance of scuffed up snooker table beize laid on a rocky outcrop.  A game of bowls on the surface would be impossible; a game of croquet interesting.  The rabbits, therefore, who attempted to burrow into it overnight were undoubtedly disappointed.

The only aim I had in mind when I set out on today’s walk, was to traverse the A31 via the Stoney Cross underpass. Hawthorn The hedges of Minstead are now thick with hawthorn and various prunus blossom.  So, if you adhere to the ‘May’ in the ancient adage being the blossom, you may ‘cast a clout’.  If you believe the reference is to the month, you must stay wrapped up until 1st June.

The far side of the forest looked pretty dry now, so I set off on a diagonal through the trees, which I thought would take me to Rufus Stone (see 19th November 2012 post).  I was pleased to find that I was spot on, as I saw a crowd of backpackers gathered around the monument.  They had moved on by the time I reached it.  I then remembered that Berry had told me it was possible to walk to The Sir Walter Tyrrell Inn (see the same post) from behind Castle Malwood Farm. Sir Walter Tyrrell I therefore went on to the inn, walked around it, and took a punt.  I am sure that there have been times during the last waterlogged year, when a punt would have come in handy.  There wasn’t a beaten path, but my by now unerring sense of direction suggested another diagonal.  I am pleased to inform all my doubters that this was successful too.

Indeed, en route, I was even able to put an antipodean couple on the right track for the stone, and to prepare them for what they would actually see.  While we were talking we were joined by an Englishman who knew all about Australia, which is where the visitors lived; roads; history; and no doubt much else.  Was it my imagination that their walking boots seemed to want to take off of their own accord while they politely listened to the story of the Norman invasion?  The historian’s terrier, attached to the end of an expanding lead, was certainly itching to be off, as it progressively made its owner look like the central post of a game of swing ball that has gone wrong.  For those who are unfamiliar with this analogy, unless both contestants in this game successfully hit the ball, the string attached to both ball and post becomes shorter and shorter as it winds around the post.  This has invariably been the case when I have tried it.

Our visitors would not tell the other man where they came from.  This may have been because he had such forthright views about their country, and had already told them that they should, like his Australian wife, ‘get rid of that accent’.  They remained pleasant, however, and when I explained why I wanted to know, told me they hailed from Sidney.  I naturally told them about Sam, Holly, their children, and the O’Neills.  The other Englishman was not impressed when I said I had liked Melbourne best.  He said it was too full of Poms and Irish.  I resisted the obvious temptation.  Sorry, O’Neills, it was only a fleeting visit to Perth, and too hot and humid to get out of the air conditioned car.

Ford behind Castle Malwood FarmBy now, we were all itching to be off.  I felt it incumbent on me to break up the party, so I did.  Berry had warned me that the area near my goal was likely to be muddy.  When I encountered masses of dried craters gouged out by ponies’ hooves on the approach to a pedestrian ford, I thought that was what she had meant. Ford by Castle Malwood Farm I confidently crossed this, mounted a slope, and felt the familiar pull of the suction of mud.  My left shoe bravely clung to my foot, I pulled up the legs of my trousers, and eventually reached dry land.

We finished the day with tasty ox heart casserole followed by vibrant plum crumble, with, in my case, a glass of Carta Roja gran reserva 2005.