Sunset Slicing Slate Skies

Slate-dull as it has been, today we experienced the warmest New Year’s Eve since records began.

Plasterer Martin Paulley, who on 5th will begin the work which will complete the Kitchen Makers project visited to check what he has to do.

After lunch I posted

Later this afternoon Jackie and I collected medication from the Milford Pharmacy and went on to meet Becky and Ian at the Beachcomber at Barton on Sea.

A photographer on the clifftop at Milford had difficulty locating the throughly obscured Isle of Wight;

a child stood too close to the ever-crumbling edge for my comfort;

others walked along the path which has more than once been brought further inland.

Choppy seas slipped back from the shingle before reaching the rows of beach huts.

We emerged from the Beachcomber with the western skies lightened enough for us to see walkers along the seafront and for the sunset to slice the slate skies.

This evening we dined on cottage pie topped with fried potatoes; firm roast parsnips and Brussels sprouts; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; and tasty gravy. Jackie finished the Sauvignon Blanc; Becky and Ian drank the last of the Zesty; and I drank more of the Merlot-Tannat.

Battling To Bring Them Down

Fierce winds, having raged overnight, continued for a good part of the day, sending us to Milford on Sea’s coastline,

to photograph the ocean with its spraying, creamy, waves pounding the breakwaters and the sea wall.

Jackie watched the play of my writhing jacket.

A formation of distant kite surfers took us off to Keyhaven for a closer look. Hurst Castle appears in this last image.

Like speedboats the surfers sent up their own spray; wrestled on the shingle with the kites flung into life by the blustery winds; and performed silhouetted aerobatics. Meanwhile sea defence trucks travelled along the spit.

Once the kites were in the air and the time had come for departure the surfers set about battling to bring them down, sometimes one aeronaut anchoring another.

We also enjoyed a closer look at Hurst Castle.

This evening we dined on Mr Chan’s Hordle Chinese Take Away excellent fare with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Mendoza Malbec 2019.

Now I am going to settle down to watch the last Six Nations rugby match, between France and Scotland.

He Flies Like A Bird

Today Nick was mostly painting woodwork.

This afternoon we shopped at Tesco and at Milford on Sea Pharmacy. There were queues at neither outlet.

From Tesco we drove to Milford on Sea via Angel Lane alongside which Jackie parked and I walked a while, photographing

woodland, a mossy oak, a mushroom, and autumn leaves floating on ditch water.

Along the coast road the air was so hazy as to obscure the cliffs of the Isle of Wight and a cruise ship quarantined outside Southampton.

The sea was quite calm, and more than one couple found the weather warm enough to enjoy ice creams from the nearby kiosk.

We moved on to Keyhaven and, from Saltgrass Lane, watched

walkers on the spit,

and were entertained by the aerial gymnastics of an impressive kite surfer.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s wholesome shepherds pie served with al dente carrots, cauliflower, and green beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Faugeres.

A Quotation From My Grandad

I have previously mentioned an unfortunate complication arising from my knee replacement operation in May. Today, after some delay and a cancellation, Jackie was able do drive me to Lymington Hospital for a visit to consultant, Mr J. Douglas. After various tests he offered the opinion that my prostate is only slightly enlarged and that there may have been some internal damage caused by efforts to insert a catheter. He was not worried about this, but, given that I cannot have my second knee replacement unless the condition, which might need a catheter designed for this not unusual problem, is confirmed, he has placed me on an urgent referral for further investigation with a camera.
Before this visit we lunched at Redcliffe Garden Centre at Bashley. Written on the roof supports of the establishment’s restaurant are memorable quotations about gardening. Following on from one from Longfellow is this one by

 ‘My Grandad’. Enlargement should make this legible, but for those needing it, here is the text: ‘A face without freckles is like a garden without flowers’.

I chose the steak pie meal. The excellent gravy relieved the impression that the meal was perhaps a bit overheated – it was, however, the last one, and despite appearances tasted very good. Jackie enjoyed her customary jacket potato with tuna mayonnaise and plentiful fresh salad.

We had taken a diversion in the forest. At Brockenhurst, just as I drew a bead on it a heron took off from the bank of a stream outside Brockenhurst.

After the consultation we sped off to the GP Surgery at Milford on Sea to deposit a requisition for medication to relax the casing of the prostate. Naturally this led us to the coast just before sunset.

The Isle of Wight, The Needles, and the lighthouse sat well in their pink and indigo pastel surroundings.

This colour scheme set off the more strident streaks of the setting sun,

opposite which sweeping clouds revealed blue skies.

As usual the heaving sea, the rock-splashing spray, and the crunching shingle reflected the overhead hues.

Soon after sunset the clearer skies revealed a finely drafted crescent moon above Downton.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s choice chilli con carne served with flavoursome savoury rice. Elizabeth drank Hop House Lager and I drank Outlook Bay Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017.

The Last Half Hour

An exchange of comments with another blogger this morning took me back to ‘Child Labour’ from 14th January 2014.
Later, I added some material from ‘Anticipating The Shot (2)’  and from ‘One Life Cut Short, Another  Changed Forever’ to the draft of ‘A Knight’s Tale’.

Our crab apple trees have lost almost all their leaves. Their enticing fruit has still not tempted the blackbirds.

This afternoon Jackie drove me to Sears Barbers where Kelly cut my hair. Peter is recovering from his knee replacement operation. After this we continued along the coast to Barton on Sea where

we enjoyed watching the skies, walkers, and the sea, during the last half hour leading to a somewhat subdued sunset. Most pedestrians and their dogs remained on the clifftop; one man gazed at the waves down below; Another in a wetsuit even breasted the turbulent waters (he was too far away for my lens). A jet plane’s perspective gave the impression that it was heading down to the waves beneath. I was not the only photographer focussed on the golden orb.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s tender peri peri chicken in a lemon marinade; creamy mashed potato; sautéed mushrooms, onions and peppers; carrots and green beans with which I drank more of the Merlot. We saved some for Elizabeth who will be home later.

P.S. In response to Sandra’s comment below, Jackie has produced her annotated version of the BBC Good Food recipe for Pumpkin Pie

Of Course, It Was Saturday

In retirement it is quite easy to forget which day of the week it is. So it was for me today when Ian drove us all down to The Needles Eye at Milford on Sea.

Until I noticed how many families were active on the beach. Of course. It was Saturday.

The cafe was buzzing. With people, not insects. We enjoyed plentiful lunches, mine, of course, consisting of an all day breakfast.

Before,and afterwards, I photographed various

Walkers along beach 1


Walkers on cliff top 1Pushcahair walker in silhouette

 passers by,

Family on beach 1Jackie, Becky and others on clifftopFamilies on beach 1Families on beach 2Children on beachGroup overlooking beachGrapplers in silhouetteParents and child

and families playing in the mild, if weak, sunshine.

This evening we dined seated on chairs at a table to eat cheese-centred fish cakes, chips and baked beans; and very tasty the meal was, too. We shared a bottle of Thornicher St Michael Riesling 2014.

Destruction Of Tulips

When I was ill earlier in the year, our friends Margery and Paul gave me a copy of ‘Winespeak’, Ronald Searle’s illustrated ‘Wicked World of Winetasting’. The author, a highly original artist, claims that ‘All the phrases in this little book have been plucked from unacknowledged but absolutely authentic sources’. Souvenir Press’s 1983 edition presents Searle’s ( until I insisted, WordPress changed this to Seattle) grotesque caricatures alongside his chosen phrases.

Here is one example: This is an excellent coffee table book. I dipped into it again last night. This morning Jackie drove me to our G.P.’s surgery in Milford on Sea, where the practice nurse removed my stitches. As, razor sharp unpicker poised, she approached my hand, she said, ‘I think I’ll get my glasses’. ‘Please do’, I laughingly replied. She explained that she didn’t really need them, but found that the off-the-counter pair beautifully magnified the knotted spiky strands of stiff line sticking out of my hand as if it were a pin-cushion. The wavy course of the blue material looked like a design for my Mum’s cross-stitching. This filled me with confidence, and she carried out a perfect operation, slipping the tiny knife under the tight knots, slicing through the thread, and drawing out any hidden residue with her gentle fingers. As my palm is rather scenic, and thinking that a description of the procedure presents the picture, I will spare my readers a photograph. Today’s gale force winds were running at about 40 m.p.h. when we made this trip. On the way back we stopped and parked by the cliff top.

In order to photograph the violent seas below, I braced myself, attempting to remain upright against the gusts tearing across The Solent. The thrift clung to the ground far more securely than I did. I wasn’t about to stand too close to the edge. Actually, I couldn’t really see what I was doing. By mid afternoon the gusts reached more than 50 m.p.h.,   

setting the Japanese maples aflame, foliage flickering in the sunlight.

Some flowers, such as aquilegias partnering bluebells in enforced fandango, survived the gales.

Sheltered mimulus and libertia simply basked in warmth.

The clematis Natcha, gyrating wildly, nevertheless kept its head.

Not so those tulips that, yesterday, had stood proud atop their chimney pot.

When we left at 9.30 this morning, they had begun to shed petals,

by lunchtime revealing their stamens,

Tulips 4

becoming even more exposed as the afternoon progressed.

By 6.30 p.m., when we left with Elizabeth, Danni, and Andy to dine at Spice of India, this is what was left of them:

On the left of this picture stands a crinodendron hookerianum, otherwise known as the Chilean lantern tree. It will soon be in bloom. (Last year I erroneously termed this the Chinese lantern tree.)

The food and service at the restaurant, owned by Andy’s friend Sid, was excellent. My starter was succulent prawn puri, and my main course Naga chicken with special rice. I drank Cobra. I didn’t really take in what the others had.


Like Shovelling Water Or Coal In A Bunker

Jackie is very keen on keeping our flat clean and tidy. Glancing at the fireplace surround since 11th/12th February when  Sam and Orlaith made a surprise visit, one would not think so. Orlaith's footprintsYou see, when she came to dust this area my housekeeper couldn’t bring herself to do it. It bore a set of podgy little footprints that are still causing amused delight.
Yesterday, when explaining the frustrations of the English system for buying and selling houses, I didn’t describe the exchange of contracts and completion of sales. I can only tell you what we have to do. I cannot quite fathom the reason. Nothing is at all binding until contracts have been exchanged. Anyone can pull out at any time and leave the other party in trouble. In order to proceed to completion, contracts must first be exchanged with the payment of a 10% deposit. Reneging on the deal after this results in forfeiture of the deposit by the buyer, or, I have been told by the agent, a similar figure from the seller must be paid to the disappointed purchaser.
The solicitors want the money up front at each stage. Yesterday’s transfer was of the deposit. We had been told the exchange has been agreed and should take place today. The completion date was still to be negotiated, but in anticipation that it will soon be arrived at, we drove into Ringwood once again and transferred the balance of the money into the solicitor’s client account this morning. Exchange did not happen today. It is now to be tomorrow, with completion on 12th March.
Afterwards, although it was a very mild day, we lunched on one of Jackie’s delicious warming soups. This was bacon and lentils. A precise recipe is impossible. What she does is keep a vegetable puree base that consists of left-overs, including such as cauliflower leaves and onion skins. This, which I believe is known as compost soup, is divided and frozen in ice cream tubs. When the time comes she defrosts a portion and adds whatever takes her fancy. Today it was chopped up left over gammon steak, fresh lentils and a few extra carrots. She believes that somewhere along the line it must have had onions in it. This must suffice as a recipe. Here is a picture of the ingredients of the next compost soup base, to which brussels sprouts superfluous to this evening’s meal were later added: Compost soup ingredients
This afternoon, as an excuse to drive past The Old Post House, we visited Hordle Beach near Milford on Sea. Dog walkersWalker on beachSeaWe looked down onto the heaped shingle and the foaming sea, watching walkers along the shoreline, and, buffeted by the wind, walked down a set of still stable wooden steps, onto the shifting heaps of pebbles. The woman in the red jacket above put me in mind of two women I had seen alongside Southampton Water on 14th October 2012. She was doing a fast walk. They had been running.
Cliff fall with beach hutsSmashed hut and debrisIn the less sophisticated warfare of centuries gone by soldiers lined up for battle in serried ranks, one tier behind the other. The front line copped the brunt of the enemy fire, and the next one clambered over dead bodies to take their places. It was those beach huts here that had been in the vanguard that had caught the full force of the recent storms, with devastating effect. One section of the cliff had fallen away, rendering difficult access to huts teetering precariously on the new edge.Smashed beach hutsDebris Plot 267Many holiday hideaways had been reduced to timber ripe for Unsafe structure warningreclamation, and debris lay where it had been washed up. Some belongings were probably now nowhere near their former homes. Council notices warned that specific buildings and land surfaces were unsafe.
A defiant message from the owners of the pile of scrap that had once stood on plot 267 aroused our admiration.
One man had been working for two days at fixing up his hut and shovelling away the shingle. This was Richard, who explained that the pebbles hurled to the front of his and other huts had, in fact, provided a protecting wall which had saved his property from the worst of the devastation. He pointed out a gap in the line where a row of huts, as if a giant had scooped them up in the night, had simply disappeared. He described his task of shovelling shifting pebbles as trying to scoop water out of a bowl, because they kept falling back in again.Richard shovelling shingle His much more apt simile, later in the conversation, was of getting in the coal for his Mum when he was a boy. Anyone who is old enough to have done that will know that as you scraped your shovel along the cellar or bunker floor, lifting one load, another slid down and filled the space you had just created.
Sadly, whilst we were conversing with this man, a group of young men started chucking some of the flotsam around and making off with other pieces. When we arrived back at the car park we could see them smashing it up and abandoning shattered scraps. A woman on a bicycle reached them before I did. She must have remonstrated successfully, for they began to pick up the broken pieces. As I approached they threw the last pieces into the car and, like Starsky and Hutch, jumped in and drove off as the doors were closing.
Back home in Minstead we dined on tender heart casserole, crisp vegetables, and potato and onion mash. Jackie achieves such tenderness in this meat with a tendency towards toughness by pre-cooking it ‘for a long time in a pressure cooker’. I drank some Bergerac reserve red wine from 2012.