Still Hanging Around

This post is the one I wrote but seem to have failed to send yesterday, 17th February 2017.

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. THOSE IN THE LARGE GROUPS ACCESS A GALLERY THAT CAN BE VIEWED FULL SIZE.

Yesterday evening Jackie, Elizabeth and I visited Southampton City Art Gallery for a preview of:

17 February to 22 April 2017
An exhibition of paintings by Hilda Margery Clarke to celebrate her 90th year.  She was born in Manchester and learnt to paint through the guidance of L.  S.  Lowry, with whom she remained life-long friends until his death in 1976.  She moved to Southampton in 1954, and studied drawing under the excellent tuition of Peter Folkes at Southampton Art College.  Since 1965, Clarke has exhibited locally and in London, and remained an important part of the city’s art scene.  In 1984, she established “The First” Gallery in her Bitterne home, consolidating ten earlier annual mixed shows there, as a venue to support other serious artists, only latterly promoting her own work.
Her subject matter includes the world around us and beyond, glimpsed and imagined, interpreted with compassion and warm humour, evident in her interest in people.  The exhibition will be accompanied by a small display of works from the collection by artists that have inspired Clarke, including L.  S.  Lowry, Richard Eurich and Eric Meadus. 

Most of you will know by now that the artist is our dear friend Margery, some of whose work has already featured on this blog.

Although I haven’t really done full justice to the painter’s colours, I think readers will get the picture from this selection of prolific creativity spanning such a long, active, life. The exhibition was so well attended that it was not possible to photograph all the labels without intruding on visitors’ privacy. Unfortunately there was no catalogue, but Margery’s son Paul may have the time to offer supplementary detail. (Please see Paul’s invaluable series of comments below, for which I am most grateful)

Derrick, Margery, and another

Rachel Adams a photographer covering the event for the Southampton Echo, was kind enough to duplicate one of her poses of Margery and two friends with my camera.

Afterwards we dined at BrewHouse & Kitchen microbrewery and restaurant in Highfield, Southampton. This large establishment was very full. It was a good thing that Elizabeth had booked a table. Dutch, Belgian, and English beers were consumed by my sister, Jackie, and me respectively. My main meal was spicy cajun gumbo served with long grain rice and the addition of a few of the chips provided with the ladies’ special burgers. We all enjoyed magnificent sundaes which would ideally have taken a month in which to eat them.

We are quite optimistic that a large number of further buckets of water applied by Jackie this morning has finally cleared our unsavoury septic tank pipes.

This afternoon we took two large orange bags of rooted bamboo to the Efford Recycling Centre. Now we have no excuse for filling more green refuse, which we will first have to cut.

Our dinner this evening was enjoyed at Daniels Fish and chip restaurant in Highcliffe. We both chose cod and chips. Jackie supplemented hers with mushy peas and mozarella sticks; my addition was pickled onions.

A Touch Of Sea Air

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. THOSE IN GROUPS ACCESS GALLERIES THAT CAN BE VIEWED FULL SIZE.

On a bright and sunny morning Jackie drove us out to Flexford Bridge to survey the scene that had been waterlogged on our last visit.

These muddy-looking snowdrops had been struggling to keep their heads above water then.

Snowdrops 1

Banks of others lined the verges of

Flexford Lane

Flexford Lane which offers another view of Sway Tower, otherwise known as Peterson’s Folly.

The numerous catkins no longer bore droplets of rain.

On that earlier day sheep had held the higher ground that led down to the Avon stream;

today they cropped the fields of Bridge Farm.

Pools in track

To reach the livestock I had walked up a pitted byway,

passing a number of derelict sheds,

Trees through hole in shed

holes in one of which neatly framed a group of distant trees.

This afternoon Jackie cut back the clematis Campaniflora in the front garden. Unfortunately this climbs on the arch alongside one of the three manhole covers laid along the pipeline to the septic tank that carries our effluent. She decided to check this one. it was full of thick shit and toilet paper soup. She tipped a couple of buckets down it, to no avail. I took over the task and had the bright idea of shovelling out the mess, putting it in a bucket, and emptying it into the last hole. It hasn’t helped, which means there is a blockage between the first two manholes. It seems that the problem stems from inadequate equipment in the guest bathroom above. I deferred the next stage to tomorrow. It always pays to think about a problem. And I was knackered.

Probably everyone knows that unpleasant aromas linger in the nostrils long after you’ve scrubbed up. Today was no exception. It seemed like a touch of sea air was needed to blast the pong away. We therefore drove out to Calshot

just before sunset,

where a sailboarder was wending his way back to his car.

Against the backdrop of Fawley Power Station, boats and buoys rested on the silt at low tide,

Geese

whilst geese honked overhead.

This evening we dined on belly of pork served with boiled potatoes, carrots and broccoli. Jackie drank Hoegaarden whilst I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon opened a couple of days ago.

Bricks In The Hopper

Hellebore, snowdrops, ferns, heuchera

As our garden awakens, hellebores, snowdrops, ferns, and heucheras stretch their limbs and jostle for position.

Hellebore

Some hellebores, petals perhaps frost-bitten, raise their heads,

Jackdaws

possibly having been alarmed by our jackdaws jousting over the rooftop chimneys,

Fungus on maple

What was once a maple on the grass had been cut back by our predecessors. Although we have some new shoots the stump now bears some fascinating fungus. We hope that is not a sign of the tree’s imminent demise.

HopperDuring the recent heavy rain, a hopper at the front of the house overflowed. Today I decided to investigate the blockage. The device contained a couple of pieces of brick that seemed to serve no purpose except partially to block the down pipe. I removed these items and Jackie filled a bath upstairs and let it flow into the pipe. All seemed to be running smoothly. Unfortunately Jackie had lifted the manhole cover to the septic tank.

This system, for homes not on national mains drainage, operates via sections of piping across the garden. There are three such covers. When we had our houseful at Christmas, we had experienced some overload in the waste pipes, creating an unsavoury heap in this first access point. Buckets of water, we thought, had solved the problem.

238490DF00000578-0-image-8_1417020292158

The residue in that pit, now solidified, resembled sand formations in the Arizona Desert,

which is why, having broken it up with a metal post, kicked up a stink, and begun to apply further buckets of water filled by Jackie,

Drainage access

I decided it was more sensitive to refrain from photographing the site until it was cleared. It had been necessary to pour the water down at speed, which incurred a certain amount of splash-back, best nimbly avoided.

The bucket drill was applied to each of the other access points, in order to ensure that the coagulated substance had been coaxed along the pipes. If that hasn’t cured the problem we will call in the experts.

This evening we dined once more on Jackie’s superb, well-matured, liver and bacon dish, served with mashed potato and swede, carrots and green beans. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank Louis Virion Costieres de Nimes 2014.

After dinner, I watched the highlights of England’s earlier rugby match against Italy.

Where Are The Secateurs?

Dawn

Cleansing Cleaning Services tankerPumping out septic tankSoon after dawn’s light created its criss-cross effect on Christchurch Road, two delightful gentlemen from Cleansing Cleaning Services arrived and pumped out our septic tank with a long tube snaking down the side of the house. Ian Norton explained the process and the system to us, booked us in for annual instead of six-monthly removal of effluence, and showed us where to look for blockages.

The scents of early summer were somewhat altered for a while.

Before continuing with the garden project, Jackie drove us to Milford Supplies to buy a couple of strong wheelbarrows, since neither of those left behind by our predecessors has stayed the course of the last week. This entailed two trips because we could only fit one at a time in the car.Path overgrown

My chosen path today, really was invisible, so overgrown was both it and the surrounding beds, with the normal weeds and the more recently ubiquitous ragged robin and buttercups. Whilst largely sticking to the path, once I had defined it, I did enter the shrubberies to stop the spread of bramble and gallium aperine.Gallium aperine

The latest rhododendron to flower was in danger of being swamped by the latter’s clutching velcro-clad tendrils. RhododendronThis weed clambers over everything in its path and, if unimpeded, would have climbed the full height of its lovely host.

I have to say I was unable completely to clear and dress this path today, so here is a photograph of the intermediate stage of the task:Path clearance intermediate stage

Jackie, on the other hand, was able to complete her intricate eradication of weeds.

We think there was perhaps a well placed near the back of the house. Whatever was in that location has been concreted over, but radii extend from that central point to provide the essential system of paths through the garden. Byways, such as the one I discovered today, give the whole the structure of a spider’s web. All patterns we can create already exist in nature.

Although she also tidied up the front drive, Jackie’s main task today was the removal of grass and weeds from between the bricks forming the central hub. This involved the use of a hand tool a kneeler.

Jackie clearing path

When I stopped to photograph my lady at her work, I put down the secateurs. Afterwards I couldn’t find them. Is any reader able to help me out?

This evening we dined on fish, chips, mushy peas, and pickled onions. Jackie drank Hoegaarden whilst I finished the Dino shiraz.

Woman’s Mastery Over Machine

Grass needing cutting

When I intimated yesterday that I might cut the grass I didn’t imagine that was all I would do, nor that the task would take me all day.

I would like to tell the tale of this man’s mastery over a machine. Unfortunately, like George Washington, on this occasion, ‘I cannot tell a lie’. At least that fledgling U.S. President had successfully cut down a cherry tree. My job had to have been easier than that.

First I had to take the Bosch Strimmer out of its box. As I feared, there was a certain amount of assembly required. I managed, to a rather insecure extent, to do this , found the extension lead, plugged the machine’s cable into it and set sail. I cut a couple of blades of grass and the nylon cutting line broke. After rereading and following the instructions I was able  to extend another piece the required 9 centimetres and have another go. Same again. Except that this time there was no line visible and neither Jackie nor I was able to decipher how to undo the holder. Clearly the cutting device had difficulty coping with our macho grass nurtured on the soak away area from the septic tank. Apparently our excreta leaches through the walls of the tank into the soil at this particular point, producing a very healthy crop. There are lots of alliums in the garden. I wonder whether their rather pungent aroma serves a masking purpose.

Grass and shearsIt is not really a good idea to leave me to my own devices in such matters, but Jackie had no option because she was still trying to turn the terrible overlapping and chopped up tiling squares on the bathroom floor into a reasonably level and complete surface. Reflecting on the fact that she was grappling with a botch upstairs whilst I was doing the same with a Bosch in the garden, I gave up.

I conceded victory to the Strimmer, but I did not give up on the grass. I abandoned modern technology for a trusty, albeit rusty, pair of garden shears. It was down on my knees again. The kneeler was in service upstairs.

I had made considerable progress by lunchtime. Enough to give me confidence to continue afterwards.

My lady carried on upstairs until she had finished her job. She then came down and began to cook the dinner. Observing me snipping away outside, she thought: ‘I can’t leave him’. Thus taking pity on me she sat on the bench and put her mind to working out the problem with the machine. She realised I was using the wrong line and used more brute force than I had been confident to employ to remove the holder and replace the line. Jackie strimmingShe was soon on her feet strimming away. Naturally I got to my feet too.

Well how was I to know that when Herr Bosch says his product comes with extra strong line that that is not the one fitted in the holder, but one kept at the back of the handle?Jackie & grass cut

Jackie did allow me to have a go at strimming. I finished the job whilst she raked up the grass.

Geranium palmatumShe is delighted to see that we have numerous geranium palmatums in the garden. Many are clearly seedlings, and quite small, but some are huge shrub-like plants.

I t was quite beneficial that Jackie returned to cooking our dinner, for it was delicious.

Lemon chickenShe had taken chicken breasts marinaded in ginger, lemon and lime, added a Nando’s piri piri lemon marinade, topped the chicken with red and yellow peppers and baked the ensemble in olive oil for thirty minutes. This is her recipe for lemon and ginger chicken.

Mashed potato, crisp cauliflower and carrots, were accompanied by par-boiled parsnips stir fried with two sliced red onions and garlic. I call this a recipe for stir fried parsnips.

Jackie drank Hoegaarden with this, whilst I chose Marques de Montino rioja 2010. We finished our drinks on the garden bench.