Nest Building

For some time now, Aaron, our very own Green Man, has been working his way through the removal of the stumps of the old grizelinia hedging that he cut down a year or two back. This morning he completed the task.

We now have several clusters of snake’s head fritillaries;

orange and yellow epimedium, which here blends well a fading daffodil;

the ubiquitous honesty;

a range of hellebores preparing to drop their seeds;

and these wallflowers fronting euphorbia.

Birds such as darting goldfinches in the cypress, and cumbersome pigeons in the copper beech just coming into leaf are busy nesting.

Reminding me of ‘And What Came Next?‘, a Red Admiral butterfly and a fly slumber alongside each other beneath

catkins dangling from the weeping birch.

For a long, leisurely, lunch Mat, Tess, Poppy, Jackie, and I joined Sam, Holly, Malachi, and Orlaith at Hoburne, Bashley, holiday home site. The food, service, and facilities were excellent. I chose a fishcake and salad starter followed by a plentiful roast beef dinner. Others also enjoyed their selections. We shared Prosecco, one glass of which was free for each of the Mothers on their day. None of us could eat a dessert. Afterwards the adults sat in the sunshine while the children played football and generally ran about.

Garden Housework


Throughout the garden we have prolific clusters of small orange and yellow poppies that shed their petals each day. Regular dead-heading encourages further growth. It has been one of my tasks to carry out this task. Today I did so for the first time since before my surgery.

I took my time over it, and paused for pit-stops along the way when, seated on chairs and benches that would have been too low for me six weeks ago, I photographed something else, such as the New Bed, the Rose Garden, the Oval Bed, day lilies, hostas, urns, and other planters.

Jackie continued what she regards as her garden housework.

This afternoon we drove to Everton Post Office and sent a parcel to New Zealand.

During the passages when my eyes were open, I then watched the World Cup football match between Sweden and Switzerland.

This evening we dined on Mr Pink’s Fish and Chips, and pickled onions. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Fleurie.

Soon we will settle down to watch the England v. Colombia football match.


The Rose Garden Bench

Staked rose

Two tall roses in the Oval Bed have responded so well to nurturing that they needed more stakes. This morning, after embedding stout wooden poles and tying up the plants, we moved back into the rose garden the bench I had built last year using the cast iron sides we had found in the makeshift fence alongside our neighbour, North Breeze.

I then walked down to Roger’s fields, and across to the woodland at the far end, then along the footpath beside the trees. The day benefited from a strong breeze.

Cow Parsley

Seeding cow parsley applauded wispy clouds scudding across a bright blue sky;


submissive grasses bent in the hedgerows;


and golden barley billowed across the fields.


Beyond the first section of the footpath through Roger’s land lies a further stretch which has, until recently, been too overgrown for me to tackle in sandals. The kind farmer has now opened this out so ramblers can easily reach the woods and look back up the hill.

Red Admiral in Barley

A Red Admiral butterfly flickered among the barley as a poppy in a cornfield;

Butterfly Dark Green Fritillary

and a tattered Dark Green Fritillary reflected shiny ferns.


What I think were damselflies, stately, never still, blunted my focus.

Bench in rose garden

After lunch came the hard part of positioning the bench. This involved digging a shallow pit, lining it with a membrane, filling it with sand, embedding rows of bricks to form a platform, and finally adding stepping-bricks for access. Only then could the seat be sited.

Rose garden

This is the current view due south from the bench.

St John's Wort

St John’s wort embellishes the bed by the entry arch;

Clematis Passion Flower

and a potted clematis Florida Sieboldii ( Passion Flower)  fronts the kitchen window.

This evening, Jackie enjoyed her Hoegaarden as a cooling aperitif to our dinner of succulent chicken marinaded in lemon and lime sauce served with her famous egg fried rice, carrots, green beans and corn on the cob. I finished the merlot with the meal.

‘I Want Light’

I forgot to mention watching the cricket highlights yesterday. I’m sure that had nothing whatever to do with the fact that Australia declared their innings closed at 566 runs for 8 wickets, and England followed with 85 for 4.


In order to bid good morning to the horses in the Yeatton Cottage paddock, I took a walk along Hordle Lane to the house and back. A grass stem that had escaped the mowing of the field to the west bowed in unison with the solitary bent oak.

Many car drivers on this winding lane seem oblivious of the 40 mph speed limit. Following the normal rule of facing the oncoming traffic on such roads which lack walkways is not always possible because I cannot be seen. I therefore often cross over so I have my back to vehicles approaching on the left. Of necessity, I have developed my own set of signals for these following motorists. Flattened against the hedgerow, arms akimbo, fingers outstretched, with a nod, indicates that there is nothing approaching them round the blind bend. My right palm up, and wide open, suggests they should hang about because something is coming. This, fortunately, is generally understood, and they come to a standstill until the coast is clear.

Horse grazing

HorsesHorse                                                                                                                                      Only one of the horses in the paddock now wears a fly mask. They all twitch their natural whisks.

On my return I finished the watering of the front garden that Jackie had begun earlier I then gathered up masses of pruning in which she was engaged. ‘I want light’ she cried, as she applied long loppers to the copper beech, the still reverting myrtle, and other overgrown shrubs. In order not to be faced with cutting up these branches when it came to burning them. I chopped them up into manageable pieces before adding them to the ever-increasing pile for the next pyre.

Butterflies fluttering around me were various whites, numerous commas,

Butterfly Red Admiral undersideButterfly Red Admiral

a Red Admiral on a gladiolus,

Butterfly Gatekeeper

and, trying to hide, a Gatekeeper on a cosmos.

This afternoon was spent visiting. First, Jackie drove us to Mum’s at West End. Among other subjects, we discussed this 92 year old’s plans for refurbishing her kitchen.

From Mum’s we went on to Elizabeth’s, with whom we proceeded to Margery and Paul’s. These latter two were hosting an art exhibition. Ostensibly we went to see the show, but in reality we wanted our usual enjoyable conversation with our friends.

Next stop was The Veranda Indian restaurant in Wickham. Elizabeth did the driving. The ambiance and service there is, in our experience, second to none, and the food is excellent. My choice was Lamb Lal Maas and special fried rice with a paratha. We shared an onion bhaji, and all three drank Kingfisher. My sister drove us back to her house where we boarded the Modus in which Jackie drove us home.


Clouds Yesterday evening’s volcanic skies, casting an ochre glow on everything beneath them, delivered just a few heavy drops of the promised overnight rain. Ushering in the month of July, today was even hotter and more humid, yet largely overcast. Red Admiral pn hebe My early task was the dead-heading of roses, and lifting soil-filled window boxes onto the head gardener’s work table for planting. A lone Red Admiral butterfly struggled to slake its thirst on a hebe that the bees claimed as their own. Horses and oak I then walked to the paddock in Hordle Lane and back. Three horses, tails twitching to deter the flies, now sheltered under their favourite oak. One of these animals availed itself of a companion’s flickering switch, apparently to pick the insects out of its nostrils. Mallow

Small mallows now mingle with other plants in the hedgerow,

Footpath obscured

which bears evidence of one of the ways in which farmers obscure ramblers’ footpaths. Look hard, and you may see the Footpath sign that, last year, I could not find until winter.

This afternoon, Jackie found incriminating evidence on our back drive. In accordance with all crime scene investigations, forensics, in the form of me and my camera, were sent in to examine the remains.

A fine fishing line, attached to two square spools, led across the gravel from a gap in the north hedge, and disappeared through a hole in the fence belonging to number five Downton Lane. Doubling as Agent Gibbs, on loan from the American crime drama series NCSI (Navy Crime Scene Investigation), and suspecting that I knew where the trailing twine belonged, I questioned Karen from the Care Home. She had an idea that the owners, who were out at the moment, were residents. A most cooperative witness, she removed the lines from our drive, and pulled, at some length, the rest of them, containing hooks and bait, back through the fence. She identified them as crab lines. This seemed useful information, not to be regarded as tampering with the evidence.

Fishing line on back drive 1Fishing line on back drive 2Fishing line on back drive 3

Now, all you sleuths, equipped with this forensic record, and the knowledge that splendid white ducks are kept in the garden of the Care Home, and that a marauding black cat lives at Number 5, you must piece together the story for presentation in court. I am confident this this will not be beyond the capacity of that great story-teller, Bruce Goodman, at

Window boxes

Later this afternoon, once Jackie had worked her magic on them, I carried the flower-filled window boxes to the front garden wall, where I placed them as directed.

Tesco’s Oriental Kitchen, in the form of their Meal for Two, Menu A, provided tonight’s dinner. This consisted of prawn crackers, spring rolls, chicken & cashew nuts, sweet and sour chicken, and egg fried rice. I microwaved the two chicken dishes whilst Jackie, eschewing the cooking directions on the box, fried the spring rolls and then, adding a mangled egg, the rice. She drank Hoegaarden and I imbibed a little more of the cabernet sauvignon. My lady pronounced the meal acceptable. Naturally I agreed.

And What Came Next?

This morning’s bouquet includes: Petunias


Clematis Polish Spirit

clematis Polish Spirit;






and delicate gladioli.


A veritable cacophony reverberated along the kitchen facia as the parent starlings jointly strove to satisfy their screeching offspring.

Whilst Jackie continued the creative gardening, I did the ironing and applied the first layer of wax to the new stair-rails.

This afternoon our friend Harri and her dog Inka came for a brief visit.

I have chosen to illustrate the third of my Five Photos – Five Stories with a set of five photos taken in Brittany in September 1982. They were themselves to provide a board book I made for grandchildren Emily and Oliver quite a few years later.

Whilst I was contemplating getting up in the morning in the bedroom of a gite where Jessica, our two children, and Ann and Don spent an enjoyable holiday, a buzzing on a windowpane alerted me to the presence of a fly. I don’t know where the original book is now, but I will endeavour to write this in the language I would have used for small children.

Fly & Butterfly 9.82 001

One day a fly landed on a curtain flapping in the breeze.

Fly & Butterfly 9.82 002

Suddenly a butterfly landed on the windowpane. The fly looked at it,

Fly & Butterfly 9.82 003

and dropped onto the sill. So did the butterfly.

Fly & Butterfly 9.82 004

The fly walked towards the butterfly and did a little dance.

Fly & Butterfly 9.82 005

They reached out a hand to each other, and –

What came next?

Each of the children gave what may be considered a stereotypical response. If you would like to suggest a suitable finale, I will wait a couple of days before revealing what my grandchildren said. I wonder if anyone will match them.

This evening we dined at The Family House in Totton, enjoying set meal M3 in the usual friendly atmosphere. We both drank Tsingtao beer.

A Battle-Scarred Red Admiral

Had I had no success with the computer problems that beset me this morning, you would not be reading this post, and I may have gone off my rocker. Yesterday afternoon I found I could not, it seemed, access the internet on my Windows 8 laptop. After much grappling, I realised that the internet pages, through Google Chrome, were automatically minimised and could not be enlarged, having been hidden in the bar at the bottom of the screen. The Hewlett Packard phone help service was only available during the normal working week. On line support was not much use to me in the circumstances.

I usually rise rather early and spend an hour or so on the laptop. This was not possible today. Fortunately my head was clearer than it has been for two or three weeks. I was happily getting on with my iMac, when I received an alert advising me to replace the batteries in my wireless keyboard. I did so. It would not then connect to the computer. I kept swapping batteries around, to no avail.

It was good that Jackie got up early so we could have coffee together, because I couldn’t phone any help desks until 8 a.m. My first call was to Apple Care.  They needed the serial number of my machine, which is accessed via ‘About this Mac’ on the screen. I couldn’t access this because I couldn’t type the password. I was getting a wee bit frazzled by then. A young woman called Sam managed, without the relevant number, to talk me through getting my keyboard and computer conversing with each other. This involved using the technique advocated by ‘The IT Crowd’, which is ‘turning it off and turning it on again’. Apparently I had been sending my Mac to sleep, rather that properly switching it off.

This didn’t take too long, and gave me confidence to telephone Hewlett Packard. A patient and helpful young man, eventually taking over my screen, spent an hour sorting out that issue. He thought ‘a bit of malware had got in there’. Never mind, we both learned something. I now know what a taff bar is, even if I can’t spell it; and my advisor knows what colons and semi-colons are. I can confidently state that a taff bar is not a watering hole for Welshmen, and perhaps my helper now knows that a semi-colon is not found in the human body.

The rest of the morning was sunny and mild. I took a wander around the garden to investigate what has been happening there whilst I have been holed up inside.Snowdrops

The whole plot was now carpeted with snowdrops that had just been poking through the soil three weeks ago.Hellebore

A very large variety of hellebores hang their heads everywhere.Camellia

All the camellias, including some darker varieties than earlier were now sporting blooms.Cyclamen

Winter flowering plants such as cyclamens, pansies, and violas have thrived.

Ever since the first autumn fall, loosened leaves have fluttered in the wind, often initially taken for butterflies. Imagine my surprise when one careened past me and, settling on a gravel path, proved itself to be a very battle-scarred Red Admiral. The wings of this creature looked as if they had fed caterpillars once the nasturtiums had perished in the few days of frost.Red Admiral

So surprised was I that I looked up its life-span on Wikipedia, where I learned that it is possible for these members of the Lepidoptera to survive in the South of England during the period we have recently experienced.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s super sausage casserole (recipe), piquant cauliflower cheese (recipe), mashed potato, carrots and leaks. Sticky toffee pudding and custard was to follow. I finished the chianti and Jackie drank more of the zinfandel.