The Secret Garden Gate

Clerodendrum trichotomum

The clerodendrum trichotomum now wears its autumn colours.

Encouraged by our weekend’s progress on the back drive we decided to clear the other side today. Since most of this runs alongside the back of the unoccupied garden, it is a different prospect – more a question of determining which shrubs are ours and which our neighbours’. We are intent on clipping back rather than taking out. Except for where we started. This was the area behind our compost heap. It is a small inset corner that was completely overgrown, largely with brambles, to the height of the ornamental grass which is all that we have retained. That is as far as we got this morning. Once we had taken out the greenery, we had to remove possibly decades of rubbish that lay beneath the foliage.

Garden gate 1Garden gate 2The major discovery was a secret garden gate leading into the jungle plot. A thick electric cable still adheres to the post. Beyond the fence stand rows of bins and buckets full of rancid water that Jackie is convinced is the source of the mosquitos which plague us. We have both been covered in bites since I returned from France. Having cut her way through the foliage she entered the other garden and skilfully tipped out the foul-smelling liquid without bespattering herself. That should get rid of some of the larvae, although the adults are still plentiful. We also know there is a stagnant pond that Jackie has already done her best to clear. There may, of course, be far more incubators hidden away.

It was when I found evidence of at least a path leading to the gate that I decided to take a break. After all, as you may have suspected, I only took on this task to avoid digging up more slabs in the former kitchen garden.

Ploughing with seagullsAfter lunch Jackie drove me to the bank at New Milton and back. I then walked down to Shorefield post box. With his usual avian entourage Roger Cobb was ploughing his upper field.

Garden gate pathWhen I returned home we continued our work in the garden. Further clearance of the area around the garden gate involved transporting wonderful compost to other parts of the garden. Much of this matter had been stored in plastic bags which were piled up and had, themselves, reached such a level of decomposition to have become virtually shredded. Separating these from the soil was a painstaking task. By the time this was mostly removed, I hope I had unearthed the path to the little gate. But I have learned the hard way that you never know what you might find down there. Even though they would obviously be easier than the kitchen garden concrete, no way am I digging this lot up. Maybe we will one day learn the history of this erstwhile point of access.

For dinner this evening we enjoyed smoked gammon, cauliflower cheese, chips, and baked beans, followed by egg custard. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, and I opened a bottle of Castillo San Lorenzo rioja reserva 2009, and drank some of it.

Along The Shingle

Jackie spent most of the day continuing the fumigation of the kitchen, the porch, and the entrance hall. She also tackled the stairs and more of the light switches, all of which need to have their original cream revealed once more. We both continued to unpack and find homes for the contents of various storage boxes, and moved more furniture upstairs.

I then took a walk down Downton Lane, left at the bottom and along Hordle Cliff beach.

The verges and hedgerows of the lane are blooming with wild flowers. Periwinkle, primroses, daffodils now a bit past it, lady’s bedstraw, stitchwort, dandelions, and bluebells can all be recognised. Nettles and cow parsley are beginning their emergence from the earth beneath.

Some way down the lane on the left lies Downton Holiday Park. A red telephone box peeps through the hedge from over a caravan.

The ripple of waves around a tractor ploughing a field proved to be the massed wings of seagulls in the wake of the swirling blades of the plough. As I leant on a five-barred gate listening to their squealing and screeching, I felt that that great high-kicking French philosopher, Eric Cantona, stood by my side, just as had imagined Steve Evets in Ken Loach’s brilliant film ‘Looking For Eric’. For those who are not aware of the significance of this observation, Cantona famously offered an enigmatic response, concerning seagulls following a trawler, in a television interview.

The Isle of Wight and The Needles were visible from the coast road.

I was soon crunching and slithering along the shingle which I shared with a sprinkling of hardy young families enjoying the seaside.
My choice from the Tesco microwaveable meals this evening was beef stew with dumplings; Jackie’s was chicken hot-pot. Fresh runner beans were the accompaniment  which Jackie cooked with her new hobs. She drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Isla Negra.

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.

Piquant Cauliflower Cheese

This morning I finished reading the preface to Madame Bovary. I hadn’t realised that Flaubert’s now acclaimed novel once enjoyed the limelight, like ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ by D.H. Lawrence, more than a century later, of an indecency trial before being published in book form. Lawrence’s mediocre novel was first published privately in Venice in 1928. Not until the obscenity trial of 1960 could it be published in UK. Naturally the trial’s publicity boosted Penguin’s sales enormously.
The day began dry, but dull and blustery. It soon brightened. I walked through London Minstead to Shave Wood where Jackie met me and drove us to New Milton’s Lidl for a shop, then to Milford on Sea for lunch at The Needles Eye cafe, after which we returned home via Bolderwood.
TerrierA black terrier who lives on Seamans Lane, the self-appointed guardian of his home usually menaces me with savagery when I walk past. Today; either he lost interest in leaping up and down, barking, and showing his fangs; or he has become accustomed to my presence, because he suddenly relaxed, stuck his head through the wire fence, and gazed calmly down the road.
The two heaps of sold timber lying on the forest verge at Hazel Hill would seem to be still awaiting collection.Sold timber
There was a little difficulty in obtaining a shopping trolley at Lidl. As anyone familiar with these devices will know, you have to press a £1 coin into a slot to release a metal tag entering the mechanism through the other side to enable you to pull out your chosen  steed from a string of others. Someone had jammed a coin into ours and it wouldn’t budge. We could neither withdraw it nor put a new one in. So we had to move to another set of trolleys and successfully try our luck there. When I reported the problem to an attendant, his manner, although polite enough, suggested he thought I had inserted the dodgy bit of currency.
Gulls on sea wallGulls on shingle
We didn’t stay long on the sea front at Milford on Sea. I swear even the seagulls were shivering on the shingle and the sea wall, not fancying any encounter with the winds and the waves. Those that did attempt to fly didn’t stay long in the air.
Waves & breakwaterRough sea on rocks
Rough sea on stepsRough sea & pool on shingleSpray on sea wallSpray mounting sea wallThe waves hurled themselves and buckets of shingle at and over the wall and created pools on the walkways with their myriad drops of spray. A couple of times whilst attempting to photograph the scene I was required to take evasive action, and a deposit of salt was encrusted on my viewfinder by the time I had finished.
Our return journey took us alongside the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive near where a Tree clearancenumber of very large trees had been ripped from their shallow roots and lay waiting to be dealt with by The Forestry Commission’s clearance crews.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s beautifully blended smoked haddock and cauliflower cheese meal. I believe the splendid special piquancy of this dish comes from the cheese sauce.
Its method of preparation is this:
To make enough sauce to cover quite a small cauliflower take: approx. 1 ounce of butter; 3 ounces of strong Cheddar cheese, cubed; a little less than 3/4 pint of semi skimmed milk; 1 3/4 oz plain flour; 1 teaspoonful of made up English mustard (for colour and piquancy).

Cheese sauce 1Consistency 1Cheese sauce 2

Consistency 2Cheese sauce 3

Consistency 3Cheese sauce consistency

Consistency 4

Place a small saucepan containing all but the milk over a high heat and stir constantly, adding the milk a little at a time once the butter has melted and is absorbed into the flour. The cheese will slowly melt into the mixture. Once consistency 4 is reached you can use it to dress the cauliflower, having lightly boiled that along the way.
Cauliflower cheese
Then add grated cheese and pop it in the oven to bubble away until it browns.
Today’s mashed potato included swede and onion. With it we shared the last of the Nobilo. Afterwards we ate jam tart and lemon meringue pie.

Candid Camera

From mid-morning to mid-afternoon today was a bit of a struggle. I had taken on a project with my computer which had best be kept under wraps for the moment. It did my head in. For some reason each time I tried to send an e-mail with attachments my work disappeared from the screen and I was being informed there was no e-mail activity. The messages, complete with attachments were lodged in my outbox.
Eventually I telephoned my recipient who confirmed she had received the e-mail. We decided I should employ the classic IT Crowd device of turning the machine off and turning it on again. My Mac wouldn’t let me turn it off. This was because Mail was blocking that activity. Then I remembered Force Quit, so I forced Mail to be off and was then able to shut down my computer, wait a bit, and turn it on again. This whole business was repeated several times before, inexplicably, everything was back to normal and I was able to send my work off.
By this time I needed a draught of sea air. Jackie obligingly drove us to Mudeford. She sat in the car park with her puzzles and the waves in front of her, whilst I turned left and walked along Avon Beach for a while, then back to, and around, the quay.
Riptide and IOW
There is a strong riptide at this crabbing and yachting village, where the River Stour comes into contact with the English Channel. Riptide on sea wallThe collision sends shockwaves to thump against the sea wall and slide quickly back over the concrete and shingle.
Photographer and model on driftwood
Family on hillFamily in silhouetteAt first I walked in an Easterly direction. The sun was lowering in the Western sky, so that when I turned to face the way I had come, everything and everyone was backlit. Boy on beachThis made for some interesting silhouettes, but sometimes that large orb, dominating an almost clear sky, blinded even the camera.
Beach shell and shingleThere was a very clear view of the Isle of Wight and the needles. Shells, seaweed, and shingle blended beautiful pastel shades on the surface of the beach which was pretty densely populated on this most springlike Sunday.Group on beach It seemed that families and working people were taking advantage of the first splendid weekend day we have had for some time. Children, dogs, and beach balls were in evidence.Seagulls Crabbing being a favoured activity along this stretch of water, the seagulls showed great interest in groups that, like the mother and daughter hugging the sea wall, made their way along to the higher levels to dangle their lines into the water.
Outboard motorOcean Diver outboard
Pleasure and working craft were on the river and the sea.Rower Outboard motors, clear of the riptide current, sped into the harbour, and a rower made his way around the quayside.Motorboat Aquila The motorboat, Aquila, however, having come from the Island, struggled against the current.
Girl on roller skatesShadows, especially by the time I was wandering around the quay, were long, as shown by those cast by a little girl struggling along on roller skates, and her mother.
Quayside viewQuayside crab basketsQuayside reflectionsI was intrigued by another photographer who scoured the crab baskets area taking photographs very similar to those I had taken last September. When she turned up reflected in water on the quay, I couldn’t believe my luck. I showed her the result which pleased her, and she exclaimed: ‘Candid Camera’.  This is a classic TV show based on ordinary people being filmed in unusual situations. Only after the filming is completed are they told: ‘Smile. You’re on Candid Camera’.
We dined an hour or so after our return home. Some dishes, such as chilli con carne have enhanced flavours the second time around. We normally prepare enough for multiples of two, and either eat more the next day, or freeze it down for later consumption. Yesterday’s production was both enjoyed this evening and had a share added to the freezer. It was delicious. The rice was prepared in the same way as yesterday, but with the addition of glistening fried onions and yellow pepper. A side dish of green beans completed the first course, and bread pudding was to follow. I drank more of the Bergerac, while Jackie’s choice was Hoegaarden.

Jogger’s Nipple

Castleman Trailway 12.12This was another beautiful clear winter’s day when the hard frost did not leave the ground, but continued to sparkle in the sunshine, except for the very open heathland where steam rose offering a misty veil across the backlit landscape.  We reprised yesterday’s Ringwood trip, except that I didn’t have my hair cut; I walked further along the Castleman Trailway; and we had our brunches in Bistro Aroma, a much friendlier and more popular cafe, with a greater range of food better cooked.  As she drove along the A31 Jackie spotted a hawk atop a fir tree, and likened it to a star on top of a Christmas tree.Ponies, seagulls, crows 12.12

It seemed to me that the waters were subsiding a little; just enough for the seagulls to share the fields with crows, and for the ponies to enjoy a little firmer foothold in parts.

Castleman Trailway 12.12 (2)As I now knew the way I walked further along the Trailway in the allotted time, managing to reach the edge of Ashley Heath and walk up the hill of pines and heathland by a pukka path provided with a small footbridge that spanned the ditch I had lept yesterday.  I was able to look down on the small town before retracing my steps back to the cafe.

Whilst perhaps not quite ‘cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey’, this was definitely extremity-tingling weather.  That phrase, incidentally, having nothing to do with cojones, is not as rude as may be thought.  The brass monkey was a container for cannon balls on nineteenth century sailing ships.  It was made of brass, which the balls were not.  Because the two metals froze at different rates the balls would fall from their perch.

Having been revealed by Donna’s attention yesterday, my ears were certainly tingling.  She had actually said, when exposing my lugs, that she hoped this wouldn’t make them too cold.  Nevertheless, brisk walking, as usual, warmed me up, just as running had in years gone by.  Training runs in a track suit were one thing.  Running races in sub-zero temperature, clad only in the briefest of running shorts and vest, usually of some unyielding synthetic material, was quite something else.  The combination of stinging cold and the friction engendered by clothing on skin could be quite painful.  When awaiting a start in conditions such as today, the experienced person wore a black bin-liner until the last available seconds and discarded it before getting into a stride.  This was when ‘jogger’s nipple’ was prone to set in.  When, even through a vest, exposed to a cold enough temperature, the nipple would react as may be expected.  The friction of regular movement would do the rest, and soreness and sometimes bleeding would result.  As a runner you just had to grit your teeth and press on.  Rather difficult if your gnashers were chattering with cold as you lined up for the off.  Men’s particular appendages would also suffer in withering cold.  It was not a good idea to jump into a hot shower before you had thawed out somewhat.Backlit robin 12.12

This evening Jackie produced a flavoursome, hot, chilli con carne.  She drank Hoegaarden and I had a glass of Le Pont St Jean minervois 2010.

Helen having recommended the village of Bartley’s Christmas lights, we drove out after dinner to see them.Bartley Christmas lights (2) 12.12  Many of the residents of this location have decked out their gardens and houses with an amazing array of colourful electrical and mechanical celebratory illuminations.  Deer, for example, glow with light and move up and down as if grazing.  Particularly as street lighting is at a minimum, this alternative serves to guide one round the village.  One of the literal highlights of Christmas in Morden was the ritual drive down Lower Morden Lane.  House after house seemed to vie with its neighbours in producing similar spectacles.  As people of the Muslim faith have moved in, so these displays have reduced, but it is still worth the trip.  In Bartley we have found a most satisfactory substitute.

The Rainbow

Backlit quay, Christchurch 12.12

Jackie drove us to Christchurch this morning in time for lunch at Boathouse, a rather good restaurant overlooking the River Avon quay.  It was a beautiful day and the drive through the forest was gorgeous.  I had a delicious fish pie whilst Jackie ate a pizza fire, which apparently lived up to its name.  She then went off to the High Street whilst I sallied forth in search of the river path in the direction of the sea.

According to my lady I needed to turn left along the quay for the sea, or right to travel inland.  I chose the sinister route and very soon found myself in the middle of a static caravan site which proved to be a dead end.  One of the residents told me I needed to go back along the towpath and cross the bridges.  Simple enough.  Except I hadn’t come along the towpath in the first place, and wasn’t sure where the bridges were.  I found myself walking the Convent Walk along what must be a towpath. Lady Chapel window, Christchurch Priory church 12.12 Glancing up at the Priory church, I saw the glowing colours of the stained glass window of the Lady Chapel benefitting from the westerly sun that streamed in from the side.  I came to one bridge and crossed to the other side of the road.  My first attempt at continuing led me to what seemed to be conference centre.  I passed a deep window in which I large group of young women were feasting.  I caused them great hilarity, realised my error, and backtracked.

Another woman told me that to regain the river bank I needed to walk up to and along the High Street, and cross a dual carriage way where I would find the next bridge.  This was one of those moments on my travels when I berate myself for not having brought a map.  Nevertheless the element of uncertainty I gain this way is all part of the fun.  Since I was in need of relief there was the bonus of the public lavatories in the main shopping centre.  The wall of my cubicle bore the graffiti legend DEFEND ATLANTIS.

At the end of the High Street I used an underpass across a dual carriageway.  It bore a helpful sign indicating Avon Valley Path.  I followed it.  And found myself in Waitrose Car Park.  There a young man struggling to lead a string of supermarket trolleys to their stable was blown across my path.  He wondered if I had come in search of a trolley.  When I told him what I was searching for he confirmed that I should walk up to the motorway where I would find my path.Waterlogged fields, Christchurch 12.12 (2) Waterlogged fields, Christchurch 12.12  Now, I should have guessed that the river which had burst its banks at Ringwood would have done the same here.  If my path existed it was under several feet of the water which stretched as far as I could see.  Seagulls swam around the bases of telegraph poles, electricity pylons and trees.  What had been fields were now their landing strips.  It was then that I began to wonder whether the Avon had its own submerged Atlantis.  When I reached Stoney Lane railway bridge I decided it was time to turn back.

As it began to rain I entered The Priory Church.  This splendid building, begun in the 11th Century, is both sturdy and elegant.  There is a splendid marble Pieta carving as a monument to the poet Shelley, and much more of interest which will repay a further visit.  It was in examining the stained glass from the inside that I was able to identify the windows I had photographed earlier.  The building is more like a grand cathedral than a local parish church.

When I emerged into the light it was to a clear bright low sun and sparkling rain.  I walked into the shower’s needle sharp shafts as I turned right along the quay.  The arc which soon appeared in the sky provided evidence that conditions were perfect for a rainbow.  I sped along the strand seeking a standpoint from which I would be able to photograph the whole semicircle of the most complete rainbow I have ever seen. Rainbow, Christchurch 12.12 Rainbow, Christchurch quay 12.12 (2) Rainbow, Christchurch quay 12.12 I may have had better luck on the other side of the river.  As I returned to the Priory car park where I was to meet Jackie, I witnessed a squabble of seagulls at the water’s edge screeching, flapping their wings, and stretching wide their beaks at each other.  The origin of their collective noun became very clear.

Incidentally, ‘The Rainbow’ is the title of the D.H.Lawrence novel I have most enjoyed.

We had a light salad, followed by apple crumble leftovers enhanced with tinned madarin oranges, for our evening meal.  Our wine was a most potable Breganze reserve Pinot Grigio 2011, ticket number 510 in last Saturday’s Merton Mind Christmas Fayre tombola.

Autumn Approaches

Seagulls following tractor 10.12

Seated in the arbour this morning I was struck by the bright colour change of the Cayratia thompsonii against the garage wall.  Yellow-green was making way for bright red.

On September 22nd. I published a photograph of a seed-like object, asking for readers to identify it.  On the picnic table this morning we found evidence that it was edible and contained enough roughage to facilitate immediate evacuation.

Jackie and I drove to Cheriton for lunch at the Flower Pots Inn, still wishing to sample the meals we had been denied yesterday. We were so struck by the scene in a tapestry of undulating fields en route that we stopped and watched vast numbers of seagulls flying in the wake of two ploughing tractors.  That great French philosopher, Eric Cantona, would no doubt have been most impressed.  Further on along Salt Lane we came to a standstill rather than disperse the meeting of female pheasants that was taking place in the middle of the road.  No doubt they were discussing the respective merits of their beaux who were foraging in the adjacent field.  Slowly becoming aware of our presence they proudly stepped aside, taking all the time they needed.

Food at the Inn was very well cooked, albeit not wide-ranging in choice.  I opted for beef and ale hot-pot which was served with either bread or rice.  Spying a couple of women tucking into plates containing appetising chips I asked if I could have some.  ‘We don’t do chips’, was the reply.  ‘Oh, I thought I could see some over there’, said I.  ‘You can, but you can only have them with sausages and beans.  We don’t do separate portions.  It clogs up the kitchen,’ responded the barman.  Since Jackie and I and the two women were the only diners this seemed a bit unfriendly to me.  Jackie was very happy with her baked potato with prawn filling and salad.  The Pail ale was excellent and Jackie enjoyed her Stella.  The service was pretty disinterested and I did not get the impression that new customers were to be encouraged.  The two women, except at a couple of points when they lowered their voices in a confidential manner, spoke in voices so loud that they must have considered everyone else, namely us, wished to listen.  We certainly had no option.  There was a very different sense about these raised voices than there had been yesterday in The Farmer’s Home when one member of the party was clearly hard of hearing.

This evening Jackie and I dined at Eastern Nights.  She drank Bangla and I imbibed Cobra.