The Woman In White


Early this morning our septic tank was cleared. This happens every eighteen months, and Jackie always feels better when it is done.

Knowing we were in for a hot spell, Jackie undertook extensive watering. My tasks involved the eradication, cutting up, and bagging of niggling nettles, invasive ivy, bothersome brambles, and thrusting thistles.

This afternoon we spent much of the time seated on the patio with guests. First Margery and Paul came to lunch, then Helen came bearing birthday presents for Jackie for tomorrow.

Naturally the garden was a focal point.

Gazebo Path 1
Gazebo Path 2

Here are two views of the Gazebo Path.

Rose Just Joey

In the Rose Garden, Just Joey

Rose Winchester Cathedral

and Winchester Cathedral have joined the other attractions;

Foxgloves in Rose Garden

Margery, however, registered a protest at the number of foxgloves permitted therein.

Poppy in Margery's Bed

She was, however, pleased to find a poppy in her Bed.

Rose Compassion

Compassion rose now proliferates above the Dead End Path.

Sweet Williams

Here is a smaller version of Sweet William that the one previously featured.

Poplar leaves

The leaves of this variety of poplar are delightful at this time of the year.

Bee on viper's bugloss

As promised, viper’s bugloss does attract bees,

Bee on geranium palmatum

as do geranium palmatums

Bee on yellow Bottle Brush plant

and the still burgeoning bottle brush plant.

Florence sculpture

The strong sunlight gives the Florence sculpture the air of The Woman in White, Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Zippel’s musical based on the novel by Wilkie Collins, that was playing at the Shaftesbury Theatre when I photographed it in September 2004.

Alpaca Poo

Among the selection of presents Helen brought was a bag of Alpaca Poo, a garden fertiliser apparently unpleasant to rats.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s wholesome beef in red wine with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and carrots, served with swede and potato mash. Jackie drank Peroni and I drank Reserve des Tuguets madiran 2014.

She Powdered Her Face


Today’s weather would have blessed any Summer’s day. It was warm and sunny, and Jackie and I raised a sweat as we continued weeding, planting, and lopping. I use ‘we’ loosely. I mainly tidied up after the real work. We transported the two full orange bags of cuttings to the dump, and later almost completely refilled one of them.

Clematis 2
Clematis Passion Flower
Clematis 3
Clematis 1

Clematises are now bursting out all over. The first two depicted here are Niobe and Passion Flower. I can’t name the others.

Rose Summer Time

Roses like creamy golden Summer Time,

Roses Summer Wine and Madame Alfred Cariere
Roses Summer Wine and Madame Alfred Carriere 2

white Madame Alfred Carriere, and glowing pink Summer Wine clamber up structures in

Rose Garden

the Rose Garden, over one corner of which Altissimo dances the tightrope.

Compassion roses

while Compassion rewards us for clearing its space over

Garden view from patio along Dead End path.

the Dead End Path.



Geranium Palmatum

and geranium palmatums are beginning to prepare us for their annual profusion.






and marguerites are just three of the plants carefully positioned in a variety of containers.

Butterfly Painted Lady on erigeron

A Painted Lady who had definitely seen better days powdered her face in the erigeron pollen.

This evening we dined on spicy chicken kebabs, plain boiled rice, and plentiful salad. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Cabillero de Diablo, reserva cabernet sauvignon  2015.

Chocolate Surprise Pudding

Jackie drove me to New Milton today for me to begin the first stage of my journey to Nottingham to visit Louisa, Errol, Jessica, and Imogen for a couple of days.

Rose Compassion

The day dawned well, and the rose Compassion flourished aloft.

The next five and a half hours were spent travelling. The first leg was from New Milton to Waterloo. Whilst waiting for the train we were entertained by a recorded message featuring the voice of Will Greenwood, former England rugby international warning us that because of the World Cup match this afternoon the train would be very crowded.

So it was. I was probably one of the last to secure a seat. At Woking, the guard announced that the at-seat trolley service was stuck in the centre of the train because of all the standing passengers.

LuggageAfter struggling on first the Jubilee then the Victoria line tube trains, doing my best to avoid lethal wheelie bags, I found it impossible to locate my reserved seat on the Nottingham train at St Pancras. This, according to the guard, was the fault of ‘this foreign built rubbish’, whose electronic system had broken down. I did eventually track down my allocated seat which was alongside a stack of luggage that kept falling down on me.

I spent the journey stacking and re-stacking this lot as extractions and additions were made by other passengers, mostly young ladies who couldn’t lift them.

As for the various body parts that were squeezed between the heap and my face, let’s just not go there. It could have been worse. Possibly.

Imogen 1Imogen 2Imogen 3Imogen 4Jessica 1Jessica 2Errol picked me up from Nottingham railway station. As soon as I arrived at the Thompson home, the two girls dragged me into the garden, just before Louisa put a mug of coffee in my hand. This was to watch their gymnastics show, performed on the trampoline.

The garden plot that we had laid out on 16th June 2013 has matured nicely.

Rose Grace

In particular, the rose, Grace, is flourishing.

Chocolate Surprise Pudding recipeBack in 1965, after Vivien had died, I decided to make my own cook books from recipes cut out of newpapers. Jessica was to keep the book and pass it on to Louisa. One of the first entries was for Chocolate Surprise Pudding by Katie Stewart. This was to prove a great favourite with all the children in turn. After fifty years the browned paper is still legible, despite its splashes of chocolate sauce.

Jessica, aged eight, and six year old Imogen, unaided, made one of these puddings this evening. Jessica was able to read the print. I would almost have been proud of the result myself.

Chocolate Surprise PuddingErrol, aided by Louisa, had produced a roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings. It was excellent. My choice of beverage was Minarete  Ribera del Duero 2014.


On a beautifully sunny morning I aimed for the wood beyond the rape field. What, earlier in the year, when the crop was young, I had described as a brassica field, had in fact been sown with rapeRape 1Rape 2 which has completely overgrown the public footpath.

Footpath overgrown

I wasn’t about to tackle that in sandals with my dodgy leg.

Footpath less overgrown 1

Another path has been trodden around the edge of the field. I took that one.

Footpath less overgrown 2

Stinging nettles made it rather less inviting in parts.


Today’s ‘bee’ is probably a hoverfly. The disguise of these harmless insects is so deceptive that I can’t always tell the difference.

I eventually made it to the wood and walked down to the stream where I rested on the rails of the wooden bridge, watching overhead foliage flickering in the shallow water, before retracing my steps.Reflections in streamHolly shadow

The filtered sunlight dappled the dark, sheltered, path, casting fascinating shadows.


Our own garden now being less overgrown, we can appreciate our antirrhinum snapdragons,

rose Compassion

and the rose Compassion.

The rest of the day was jointly occupied in weeding and planting. Sometimes I wonder if the necessity of eradicating unwelcome flowers has come about purely to make space for the trays of the more acceptable bargains that are brought back from garden centres every time Jackie ‘pops out for compost’. When my Dad ‘popped out for some cigarettes’, you would not see him for an hour or so. So it is with Jackie and compost. When I ran out of weedkiller whilst treating the future rose garden, there were, it being a Sunday, just ten minutes to closing time at Otter Nurseries. I thought I might escape by being able to finish the task tomorrow, but she volunteered to go and buy some immediately. As she said when she returned very soon afterwards, that must have been her quickest ever trip to a garden centre.

This evening we dined on garlicky chicken Kiev, creamy mashed potatoes, roasted peppers and mushrooms, crisp green beans, and pure white cauliflower. Jackie drank her customary amber beer in the form of Hoegaarden, whilst my red wine was a little more of the chianti.

Chinese Takeaway Pie

Scooby and roseFrost on rose
Before collapsing into bed last night we watched episode 5 of ‘Downton Abbey’. Only 37 more to go, not counting Christmas specials.
Over the festive season, the skin encasing Scooby’s stomach has become rather tight. He was off his food yesterday evening, and this morning he puked up on the kitchen floor. He perked up immediately afterwards, so, in order to liberate his nostrils from the aroma of disinfectant, Jackie took him out to smell the roses. These were frost-covered, as was a pieris that has risked blooming early. This latter plant is one I bought, potted and repotted whilst living in Sutherland Place. Left there until I removed my belongings, first to Michael’s house in Graham Road, and ultimately to Downton in April, it miraculously survived and has taken well to our garden soil here.Frost on pieris
LandscapeTreesWoodlandBacklit leavesReflections on streamAllowing the sun time to come up, I took the woodland walk, this time walking round the field before fording a muddy ditch leading to the stream. It was a little warmer today, so the frost dripped from the foliage onto felled logs and the forest floor. Sunlight streaked through the trees, setting the bracken alight and casting shadows on the rippling, sparkling water.
BrackenBacklit leafSun through trees
This evening’s meal was a miracle of mother/daughter invention. Becky produced Chinese Takeaway Pie. She took the left-over dishes from the meal of a couple of days ago, laid them in tiers along an ovenproof oval dish, and covered them with the pancakes that had been provided for the duck. This was gently heated in the oven, and was an enjoyable melange. Jackie’s contribution was Egg Foo Yung – well, all right, egg and bacon omelette. They went very well together. Peroni and J2O was drunk by all except me. My choice was Gran Famila Las Primas 2013.

The Agriframes Arch

Rose CompassionBirch leaves, verbena petals, nasturtium leavesAfter yesterday’s constant rain, a bright morning lent a sparkle to everything in the garden. The Compassion rose was sprinkled with raindrops; as the broad nasturtium leaves that had halted the descent of those of the birch, and petals of verbena bonarensis.
Clerodendrum trichotomumClerodendrum trichotomum 2This clerodendrum trichotomum had the appearance of a parasol-shaped cocktail stick bearing a drop of Delboy’s pina colada, as featured in the long-running TV comedy series, ‘Only Fools And Horses’. It should have had a dark blue cherry fixed to the ferrule. Perhaps that has been eaten.
I took my usual Hordle Cliff beach Families on shinglewalk. On this sultry summery morning, ringside seats on the shingle were filling up fast.
Soon after midday we took delivery of an Agriframes Classic Gothic Arch, and set about assembling it and putting it in place. This was to occupy us until the light faded as the sun began to settle itself down for the night.
Jackie pondering instructionsEven Jackie was flummoxed by the totally inadequate instructions that were enclosed. She needed my input to help decipher them, which, as my regular readers will know, is really saying something. A favourite of the R.H.S. gardens at Wisley, this elegant structure comes with a fifteen year guarantee. This is quite crafty really because it could take several of those years, before it is exposed to the elements, to construct it.
At the midway stage, we were advised to fix the bottom poles into the ground. A hole-maker was provided for the purpose. This metal pole was easily driven into the soil on one side of the path the arch was to straddle. On the other side, a few inches down, I struck an immovable object. Stone? Concrete? I wasn’t about to find out. We moved the site until all four holes could be pierced to the required depth. From then on it was comparatively plain sailing. Until we found we had two screws left over. A minor panic ensued as we carefully checked each spacer bar. There were none missing, so we decided someone on the assembly line must have been feeling generous.
White bush roseThe need for the arch was occasioned by a beautiful mature white rambling rose that was, during the summer, running rampant over the surrounding shrubs. Jackie had pruned it heavily earlier in the Agriframe archyear as it was becoming a danger to passers by. Once we had erected the arch we trained much of the rest of the rose onto it. There is still tidying up to be done, but we had had enough for one day.
This evening Jackie will drive us to New Milton to collect Louisa who will stay overnight and leave with us early in the morning for Chris’s funeral. We will all be early to bed with Jackie’s lamb Jalfrezi inside us.

Hordle Closed Cemetery

A new discovery was made on my familiar Hordle Cliff walk this morning.
An abandoned bird’s nest perched high up in the hedgerow on Downton Lane where, Bird's nestBlackberry blossomLichen and gorseseduced my the mild autumn, blackberry blossom still blooms, and lichen blends with the gorse. TractorBarbed wire and brambleRoger was out with his tractor bearing new attachments, the purpose of which I do not know. Barbed wire and bramble combined to deter intruders from scaling his five barred gate. A day or two ago, Jackie and I, in the car, had noticed a disused cemetery beside Hordle Manor Farm. On foot, I had not seen it. Today I investigated the Hordle Closed Cemetery.

This is its story:Hordle Closed Cemetery 4Hordle Closes Cemetery 1Hordle Closed Cemetery 2Hordle Closed Cemetery 3

None of the inscriptions on the aged gravestones is still legible.

Cliff warning signOn the cliff top by the rather precarious footpath leading to Barton on Sea, a sign warning of crumbling terrain, and informing ramblers that there is no access to the beach for two miles, is completely obscured by brambles.

Rose CompassionIn our garden we are still enjoying the abundant flora, like this Compassion rose, that was similarly obscured when we took up residence in April.

Whilst I had been wandering, Jackie had produced something to wonder at. Following the Guy skeletondesign of her late father Don Rivett, she had created the skeleton of a guy for Jessica and Imogen to complete on 1st November. On the wall behind this figure hangs a painting on canvas affixed to an adjustable frame that Becky had made for me in the 1990s as a rest for reading in bed.

For those readers who do not know about Guy Fawkes, it is this gentleman who is represented by the effigies such as this one, burnt, usually on 5th November. On this date is remembered the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Guido Fawkes led this failed attempt to blow up King James I by setting a charge under the Houses of Parliament. He was betrayed and the plot foiled. Fawkes was a Catholic, but most of those who celebrate his failure today are probably unaware that they are participating in an anti-Papist ritual, or that some of the fireworks that accompany the bonfire that becomes the miscreant’s funeral pyre are also religious symbols.Catherine Wheel 11.12 The Catherine Wheel, for example, represents the martyrdom of that eponymous saint who was intended to be broken on a wheel. This particularly unpleasant death involved the victim being threaded through the spokes of a wheel so that all their limbs were broken and a lingering demise followed. When the fourth century Catherine of Alexandria was subjected to this treatment, each spoke she touched broke. Her tormentors then gave up and beheaded her.  Perhaps it is just fun to celebrate the anniversary in blissful ignorance.

This afternoon our new BT TV box was delivered, and I did manage to set it up, with Jackie’s help when it came to entering our postcode by using the number keys on the remote control. How was I to know how to enter S from a button containing 7pqrs? BT TV, incidentally now seems to be called YOUVIEW. Early this evening we tested it by watching episode four of New Tricks which we enjoyed. The new system appears much easier to manage and the box is far smaller.

Our dinner this evening consisted of a rack of pork ribs marinaded in chili sauce with Jackie’s savoury rice jam-packed with vegetables. A strawberry trifle was to follow. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank astillo San Lorenzo rioja reserva 2009.

The Perfect Camouflage

BegoniasDahlia mauveThis morning our plants enjoyed some welcome rain; I identified, scanned, and retouched twenty black and white negatives from my unsorted collection; and Jackie shopped for Dahlia peachLilyPetuniaRose Compassionand prepared our evening meal. Burghers of Calais 1982 1When, on 24th October last year I visited the site of Rodin’s Burghers of Calais, I mentioned some missing prints I had made in the 1970s. In fact I was confusing them with some black and white ones from 1982. This were among the negatives I worked on today, and I reproduce one here. Anyone familiar with the work will recognise that the position in which I needed to stretch myself for this shot would probably be beyond me now.
This set of negatives can be safely dated at early summer 1982, by the same method of deduction as the colour ones featured on 20th July. A trip to Cannizaro Park alongside Wimbledon Common with the Shnaps family provides one theme. Girls in park (cartwheel) 1982I think it must have been in the park that the unknown girl was about to turn her cartwheel.Matthew & Sam, Maurice, Jessica, Beverley, Becky 1982Matthew & Sam, Maurice, Jessica, Beverley, Becky 1982
Jessica, Becky, Maurice and Beverley, with their boys, brought up the rear as Sam delightedly raced into his brother Matthew’s arms.
Becky 1982 2Michael 1982 3There were also a number of pleasing portraits of my other offspring, Becky and Michael.
The Zebby board books were a great favourite. Never having seen them before or since, I think I bought them in one of London’s many remainder bookshops. Michael & Sam 1982 2Michael here reads to Sam, whose excited expression suggests this book was ‘Where’s Zebby?’. Sam must have spotted him before he emerges from behind the upright railings that offered him the perfect camouflage. Board books are heavy duty and can withstand a considerable amount of attempted mutilation from young fingers and teeth.
On a bright and blustery afternoon, having missed the post at Shorefield, and wishing to ensure that Alice received her birthday gift on time, I walked on along the cliff top to the Needles Eye cafe and up Sea Road to the Milford on Sea Post Office. I missed that one too. Never mind, my granddaughter will forgive me.MotorboatCouple on folding chairsGroup on beachCouple on shingleCouple walking shingle
I returned to the path overlooking the sea via Park Lane, and thence home. Motorboats sped along the solent, and hardy holidaymakers sat watching the waves or walked along the shingle.
I know you will all be keen to learn what Jackie cooked during the day and served up this evening. Now I can reveal that it was her trademark juicy lamb jalfrezi (recipe), and it was delicious. It was accompanied by vegetable samosas, mini poratas, and boiled rice; and followed by mixed fruit crumble and custard. The proprietors of the Shaan in Newark would approve of our choice of dessert. Jackie drank Kingfisher and I drank Cobra.