A Fan Of Harry Potter

On another fine spring morning I took a walk to Shorefield Country Park and back.

Before arriving at the end of the back drive I photographed

a few tulips

and bunches of daffodils.

A cerulean Christchurch Bay could be seen from the entrance to Roger Cobb’s top field on Downton Lane.

Further down the road, what looked like a transparent bouquet wrapper added sparkle to the blackthorn.

I saw this because I had turned down the steeper slope from which I had reversed my steps on my last trip. This time I carried Elizabeth’s stick which helped my balance.

I had intended to continue to the end of Downton Lane, but the raucous cawing of rooks emanating from the otherwise deserted Shorefield Country Park became siren calls to the rookery that I knew would be

down a footpath from Shorefield Road to a collection of wooden holiday homes.

The red railed bridge at the far end of the picture I produced on the downward slope traverses the same stream as that crossed by the little road bridge in the image preceding that one.

The damp nature of the terrain is evidenced by the flora flanking the footpath.

It looks as if the corvine colony is at the nest building stage.

Whoever has reduced the 10 m.p.h. limit on Shorefield Road is a fan of Harry Potter.

Jackie’s savoury rice, stuffed as it is with red and yellow peppers and peas for colour; and onions, mushrooms, egg, and garlic for flavour, is a meal in itself. This evening she served it with spicy hot chilli con carne with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Valréas.


Once More Unto The Beach House

Jackie delivered me to New Milton station this morning, for me to travel to Waterloo. A little more than an hour later, she collected me and we collected a waistcoat from Fagan’s and some paint from Milford Supplies.

After watching the messages of the station indicators switching from ‘delayed’ to ‘cancelled’ and back again for the best part of the hour, I postponed my meeting with Norman and joined the queue for refunds forming at the shuttered ticket office while the clerk was enjoying his coffee break. Eventually those of us who wanted it got our money back.

Scooby and crow 1Scoobby and crow 2

After lunch I accompanied Becky and Scooby on a walk at Barton on Sea clifftop. Scooby, as usual, frolicked with other dogs, then wandered along the edge of the cliff, far too close for my comfort, until, pretending he hadn’t heard, he disdained the challenge of a crow to approach nearer.

Shorefield Sales Office

On our way back we passed Ian who had been walking down to surprise us. He joined us in the car and we drove around Shorefield Country Park, then investigated the sales office.

Welcome table

This evening we dined at The Beach House, where the welcome was superb.

JackieIanBecky and IanDerrick

The meal, pretending to be no more than pub food, was good; the ambience and service excellent; the prices very reasonable with no exorbitant mark-up on the wines. My choice of starter was very good whitebait; my main course was a good Cornish pastie; my sweet two scoops of ice cream, one of honeycomb, and the other rum and raisin. I drank an excellent Montepulciano.

The Farthing

For Jessica’s old friend Mary it was frogs; for Jackie’s sister Helen it is owls; for us it is mugs with birds on them, or in France, chickens.

I speak of collections built up by friends. This is how it works. One person presents you with a frog, an owl, or a mug. These are noticed by others who give you another. Before you know where you are you are overrun with them.

Wren mugfarthingSheila observed that a lot of our mugs depicted birds. We identified those on her morning coffee cup as wrens, our smallest common avians. The conversation developed into a discussion about the farthing. Until it was abolished in 1961 this, being our smallest piece of coinage, bore a wren on the reverse side. When we were all children one could buy a pink shrimp sweet, blackjack or fruit salad chew for a farthing each. A pair of shoes was available for £1/19/11¾ (a farthing under £2 in pre-decimal coinage).

erratum slip: My friend Geoff  Austin informs me he has a Victorian half-farthing.

After a shopping trip to New Milton we visited Braxton Gardens near Everton, where the rose garden has now been refurbished.

Roses 1Roses 2Roses 3Roses 4Roses 5

On the way home, Jackie deposited me at Paddy’s Gap Car Park. I walked on, following in yesterday’s footsteps. A brisk sea breeze cooled the cliff top on this muggy, overcast, day.

Discover Dane Park

Shorefield Country Park now carries a hoarding explaining why the older chalets were demolished, burnt, and replaced during the winter.

A couple were cleaning the outside of their static caravan. ‘You wouldn’t like to come and do ours when you’ve finished, would you?’, I quipped. Quick as a flash, ‘No’, the man replied with jocularity, ‘I’d prefer you to come and do this one’. I responded with ‘I asked for that, didn’t I?’. ‘You did’, laughingly returned the woman.

This evening we dined on roast chicken; roast potatoes, peppers, and mushrooms; Yorkshire pudding; sage and onion stuffing; cauliflower, peas, and carrots; followed by lemon cheesecake. I drank more of the malbec.

Crunchy Cottage Pie


On a mild, dank, morning a friendly robin trilled a greeting from a neighbour’s birch tree, encouraging me to take my walk to Hordle Cliff top and back.

Isle of Wight and The NeedlesDaddy longlegs

The daddy longlegs that had splatted against the bus shelter window during the summer is well on the way to becoming fossilised.

Shorefield Country Park 1Shorefield Country Park 2

By the time I returned through Shorefield Country Park, the skies had cleared to reveal a splendid sunny day.

The rest of the 1982 black and white images that I scanned yesterday involve a stay in the Drapers’ home in Meldreth, and another with Maggie and Mike in Southwell. As far as I remember Jessica and I were house-sitting at ‘The Dumb Flea’ in Meldreth, so named after the Tudor public house it had been before its current extensions.

Louisa 1982 1Louisa and Matthew 1982Louisa and Becky 1982

Matthew and Becky, who are seen here holding baby Louisa, decided to cook cottage pie for our evening meal. Having worked away in the hot kitchen, the two red-faced, glowing, children proudly placed the dish on the table and we all eagerly tucked in. The mashed potato topping was appropriately crisp and soft, but the filling was a little crunchy. And some. When Julie and Peter returned they explained the reason. They kept dogs. The children had used dog mince which must have been three quarters bone.

Jessica and Maggie 1982 1

After their London wedding some years previously, Jessica and I had not seen Maggie and Mike until I ran my first Newark half marathon later in 1982. We visited them, not dreaming that five years later we would move to Lindum House. The story of the renewal of our friendship is told in ‘Mordred’.

MoonWe will miss the Emsworth family who returned home this evening. Becky sent a text saying ‘Look at moon’, so we did. It was full, with a halo and balanced the rear lights of cars speeding along the darkness of Christchurch Road.

Egg, bacon and chips was the perfect meal for anyone wishing to come down to earth from an extended festive season. That is what we ate this evening.

‘Painting With Light’

With extensive cloud cover and intermittent rain this morning was considerably warmer than yesterday, but Skyscape with rainbowIsle of Wight and The Needlesfar less inviting for my Hordle Cliff top walk. Nevertheless a rainbow did attempt to put in an appearance, as did a watery sun over The Solent, which sent ochre coloured waves crashing against the blending shingle on the beach.
GaragesWhoever broke into the garages of the empty Royal Oak pub was bound to have been disappointed, for there was nothing they wanted inside. The deciduous trees on Downton Lane Downton LaneBranchesBarbed wirehave mostly lost their foliage, but the evergreen pines have retained theirs.
Balloon in streamReindeerIn an attempt to cheer up the day an inflated memento from a Macdonald’s Happy Meal bobbed in the stream, and a festive reindeer has arrived in Shorefield Country Park.
The skies had brightened considerably by midday when Aaron Parris of A.P. Maintenance came with a colleague and cleaned out our guttering. I engaged him to complete my work on the back drive, and to level the former kitchen garden.
By 2 p.m. the winter sun was strongly in evidence and the temperature several degrees colder. I took a short stroll down the lane with the object of reprising some of the morning’s shots. These are the results:Downton Lane 2Branches 2Barbed wire 2Balloon on stream 2Reindeer 2Landscape
By 3 p.m. it wasn’t far off sunset.Branches 3Skyscape 1Skyscape 2
Chris Weston, on his training course, described photography as ‘painting with light’. Perhaps these images, all unenhanced, and taken at different times on the same typically English day, illustrate what he meant.
The chauffeur was feeling a little under the weather, so unfortunately we were unable to attend Margery and Paul’s annual Christmas singing party, but trust the usual good time was enjoyed by all.
Since the chef was also feeling a little frail, we dined out at the Rivaaz, where I enjoyed lamb nagin and special fried rice, with a few titbits donated by Jackie from her choice of the buffet meal. We both drank Kingfisher.

From Erotic To Gothic

Having admired Mario Vargas Llosa’s epic tale , The War of The End of The World’, I decided to embark upon another of his works. This time I chose a slighter book, the elegant and gentle piece of erotica ‘In Praise of the Stepmother’. Very well written, the tale was ultimately a considerable disappointment. The first book had contained a few indications of the writer’s fascination with sexual love, but the more violent descriptions seemed the less remarkable in the context of a savage war.
The second book, cleverly links the narrative with famous paintings, such as Titian’s Titian, Venus with Cupid and MusicVenus with Cupid and Music’. The novel features an inappropriate relationship between a forty year old woman and her stepson, in which the small boy emerges as the scheming initiator. The disappointment is that the child is presented as possessing the control. In any such relationship it is the adult who is misusing power. Given the focus on historic child abuse in recent years in this country, I wonder how Faber’s 1991 publication would be received today.
I finished reading the book this morning, before taking my usual Hordle Cliff beach walk in reverse.
PigeonsAs the leaves fall from the trees, the rooks will soon be returning to their nesting area, but at the moment that is occupied by pigeons.
Chalet demolition 1Chalet demolitionThe chalet demolition in Shorefield Country Park continues apace.
Although the morning was drier and brighter than yesterday, strong winds roared across Sea and cloudscapeGrasses by seathe Solent, bringing waves crashing on the shingle, and bending the ornamental grasses growing beside the steps descending from the cliff top. Sunlight set autumn leaves Bramble leavesThe Needlesablaze and threaded its way through The Needles.
ClematisOur winter flowering clematis Cirrhosa is displaying the freckles by which it is known.
I was fortunate to avoid much of the rain this morning. The afternoon was rather wetter. Having recently watched Andrew Graham-Dixon’s BBC4 programme, ‘The Art of Gothic’, I was inspired to read Horace Walpole’s ‘The Castle of Otranto’, described as the first Gothic novel. I read Devendra P. Varma’s introduction to my Folio Society edition this afternoon.
Jackie’s recent sausage casserole has, with the addition of slabs of beef and a little more bacon, has become a mixed grill stew. And delicious it was too, as we dined on it, with roast potatoes and boiled carrots and runner beans, this evening. My choice from the array of desserts was tiramisu. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Castillo san Lorenzo reserva rioja 2009. Flo just ate her dinner.


During a brief lull in the wet and windy weather the forecasters tell us will worsen over the next two months, I met and spoke with Ralph, the owner of The Spinney, on my way to Hordle Cliff beach and back. He recounted the history of the once again closed Royal Oak pub on the corner of Downton Lane. Apparently a few years ago a family successfully ran it for nine years. They were always packed out. Having lost the country pub atmosphere under a series of successors, it has failed to survive since.
Chalet demolitionStatic caravanDespite the rain, men demolishing the older chalets in Shorefield Country Park were able to keep a bonfire going. The replacements, providing work for M. Doe, are being erected within a matter of days.
Jackie had bought a pomegranate for Flo, which enabled me to illustrate my post ‘The Bees’ of 29th May 2012 with a photograph. Our granddaughter eschewed the pin method favoured by Chris and me. She preferred to pick out the fleshy seeds with her fingers.
Some weeks ago, Jackie’s sister Helen had entrusted to her a tiny pair of ailing plants. Floppy little things, they seemed to be beyond being restored to health. Helen’s faith, however, has paid off. One was to be adopted by her sister, the other to be fostered in respite care.
Clematis SeiboldiiWhat I thought was a dwarf passionflower has now flowered in its pot, and has the strength to climb up its supports. This is a clematis Sieboldii, appropriately nicknamed the passionflower clematis. Clearly a certain amount of favouritism has been employed, for this is the adopted twin, which has benefited from diluted tomato feed, and regular caresses and sweet nothings.Clematis Sieboldii in incubatorThe other, the foster child, although beginning to show signs of viable life, remains in an incubator in the utility room.

Errol’s lilies still enliven our sitting room.

Our dinner this evening consisted of Jackie’s delicious sausage casserole (recipe); mashed potato and swede; carrots and runner beans followed by a variety of sweets, mine being scones and strawberry jam. I finished the malbec.

P.S. Jackie tells me I got the wrong end of the stick over the plants. It was only last week that Helen had handed over her clematis for resuscitation. As can be seen, it has already responded to her sister’s equally attentive tender loving care.

The Chicks Have Hatched

One of the consequences of moving house is the need to wonder where to put things. This is very helpful in encouraging one to complete unfinished organisational tasks begun years ago. In about 2008/9, when living in Sutherland Place, I discovered that some of my books and slide boxes had been damaged by damp. The colour slides themselves were sound, but the boxes were on the wet side, so new containers were essential. I bought some, and decanted the positive films from the worst of the moistened ones. Although I had enough new receptacles to take the contents of the last, least damaged, box, I didn’t finish the task until yesterday. All in the interests of reducing by one the number of containers needing a home.
This led me, this morning, to resuscitating the ‘posterity’ series. My first photo-shoot of Jackie was made on Wimbledon Common in April 1966.

Here is one of the pictures, with the War Memorial in the background top left.
Before this I walked the whole length of Shorefield Road and Sea Breeze Road, taking in the vast acreage of the Country Park. The high-pitched screeching of the gulls over the stubble field on

Downton Lane gave way to the deafening racket of the rookery, at times indistinguishable from that of a reversing Highway Maintenance vehicle.

The lofty nests of the frenetically active rooks are now apparenty occupied by ravenous chicks. The parents flap to and fro keeping their offspring from starving. Each rounded cluster of sticks is guarded by one adult whilst its mate energetically forages.

At the far end of the Sea Breeze section of the park, where building continues unabated, is a meandering stream-crossed woodland walk leading to Studland Common Nature Reserve. Although partly gravelled, the paths tend towards the muddy. 

The ear tags of cattle grazing in Studland Meadow reflected the gorse around them.

On my return I met and conversed with two separate dog-walkers. I was quite relieved that the West Highland terrier poised for attack was on the end of a lead, and had probably already had his breakfast.

This afternoon, as promised, our chests of drawers were delivered by Fergusson’s House Clearance.

Before dinner I finished reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel ‘The House of the Seven Gables’, in the Folio Society edition illustrated by Francis Mosley. First published in 1851 this is an intriguing story rich in characterisation. The author’s skill in story-telling surmounts the wordiness of some of his language commensurate with his time of writing. The reader’s interest is maintained throughout. There is a touch of mystery about both the house and the writer’s tale, and he ties it all up tidily in the end.

Mosley is a versatile illustrator who remains one of my favourite Folio Society artists.

Our evening meal was roast lamb in tasty gravy, served with crisp vegetables. I drank Cimarosa Chilean merlot from 2013.

Fifty Years Ago Today

This morning Jackie and I had a trip to Highcliffe, last home to so many people that it is full of shops with good quality second-hand goods from houses recently rendered unoccupied by infirmity or death.
We went in search of curtains, of which the Sue Ryder shop provided three good pairs, and the Oakhaven Hospice a fourth. A wardrobe was also a requirement, because Flo is coming to stay in a couple of days time, and we want her to have a choice of bedrooms. This we found in the hospice where, in November 2012, we had bought our serpentine table. It will be delivered on the relevant day. We brunched in the Star cafe.

Should our granddaughter choose one of the bedrooms at the front she will have a view across fields to a rape crop in the distance. The idyllic back garden was visited this afternoon, among other creatures,

by a cabbage white butterfly and a hover fly sharing the sunlight on a hellebore. And is that a caterpillar snaking up between them?

The tulips are now so full-blown that they have a kaleidoscopic quality.

For my fiftieth birthday in July 1992, my friend Giles made me a chequerboard in stained glass. It now enhances the window at the foot of our stairs.

Fifty years ago today Michael was born.

Here Vivien holds him when he was ten days old.

I have given each of my offspring a stack of albums containing photographs of their childhood. When I phoned Michael today, he told me that Alice had produced a slide show from his albums and they were watching it on their computer.

Early this evening I strolled down Downton Lane to investigate the caravan sites, and in particular the shop. Downton Holiday Park is alongside the lane. A larger and more salubrious establishment is the Shorefield Country Park on Shorefield Road. That has a very well stocked Spar, which will be our village shop.

This evening we dined on Tesco’s finest microwaveable curries; lamb rogon josh for me and chicken jalfrezi for Jackie, with Sainsbury’s vegetable samosas heated in the oven. The oven is definitely meant to be low level, because Jackie, who is herself tall, is not high enough to read the symbols on the control dial. I opened a bottle of Isla Negra reserva cabernet sauvignon 2013 and drank some of it.