An Enforced Eviction

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Wisteria

Early this morning the sun shone on the wall-bound wisteria aiming for the en suite bathroom.

Raindrops on tulip Diamond Jubilee 1

Lingering early raindrops rolled around the Diamond Jubilee tulips,

Raindrops and fly on tulip Diamond Jubilee

onto which a thirsty fly dropped for a drink.

RhododendronRhododendron and pieris

Another rhododendron, leading the eye to the pieris on the grass, is beginning to bloom.

The day dulled over as it progressed. We spent the morning working on the garden. Jackie did some general planting and weeding, and sprinkled chicken pellets over the newly composted beds. Before you imagine otherwise, we do not keep chickens. The pellets come in a large bucket and are marketed as manure.

Vinca

Vinca makes an attractive ground cover, but it does have a tendency to sprawl, take root, and make life very uncomfortable for bed-mates. So it has been for the Weeping Birch Bed. I therefore concentrated my efforts on that. Fast approaching is the warmer weather when a thinner duvet will be in order.

Ladybird on vincaSnail and ladybird on vinca leavesSnail on vinca leaf

A black-spotted ladybird and a tiny striped snail suffered an enforced eviction as I ejected  their shelter.

Brick pillar

Our stone urns and other containers are mounted on dry brick pillars. The ground under one of these subsided a bit last autumn and it fell over. We spent the last few minutes before lunch levelling a space and beginning to rebuild the column.

This evening we dined on succulent roast pork and apple sauce, roast sweet and savoury potatoes, with al dente carrots, cauliflower, and runner beans; followed by rice pudding and blackberry jam.  I drank Reserve des Tuguets madiran 2012, and Jackie drank Hoegaarden.

The Catch

Giles had left his cap at our house on his last visit. This morning we drove round to return it. As he appeared to be out, after knocking, I pushed the headgear through the letter box and prepared to leave. A giant snail on the window sill caught my attention and I paused to photograph it. Giles then appeared. He had been chopping logs down the garden.

Snail by Giles

Our friend is very creative with driftwood and pine cones.

Pillar Box

We also had a birthday card to post. The Victorian pillar box nearby was pretty full, and the slot wasn’t really large enough for our item, so we travelled to the post office to leave it in their box.

An about turn took us on to Purewell, near Christchurch where we bought a present at Motorists’ Discount Supplies. We had some difficulty finding this establishment at 5a Sanpit. We could have been spared this, had we parked at Mudeford Quay before our search. This is because, printed on the back of our parking receipt, was a map advertising and locating the outlet.

In the event, we didn’t go to Mudeford until after buying a freezer at Curry’s. This was required because the Cook and Caterer in Chief had realised that we couldn’t stock up for all the Christmas guests we are expecting without something larger than our current equipment.

The weather is still very mild, and although it was high tide the water was calm enough to caress the sea wall with a gentle susurration. Jackie repaired to the cafe whilst I wandered in search of photographic material.

Crow 1

A vociferous crow cawed atop the crab baskets, then,

Gulls in flight 1Gulls in flight 2Gulls in flight 3Gull in flightGulls in flight 4

the air was filled with flocks apparently auditioning for a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic ‘The Birds’. They were squabbling gulls wheeling, screeching, and treading air just beyond the quayside.

Gulls around boat 1Gulls around boat 3

Gulls in flight 5

Gulls around boat 2

I walked round the rows of heaped baskets to see that a fishing boat had come in.

Fishermen with catch

Two fishermen were sorting their catch, boxing up what they wished to keep, and discarding the rest.

Fishermen on boat 1

Since the fishers were definitely both men, I wondered whether they had borrowed the boat from Chloe and Christie out of Poole.

Gull 2Gull 3

Some of the hopeful scavengers made their presence known from the concrete kerb. The noisy fellow was really rather large;

Fisheman and gulls 1Gulls and fishermanGulls and fisherman 2

others, still airborne, scrambled over each other in their eagerness to catch scaly pickings.

Lunch at Haven Cafe

It didn’t take me long to take three dozen pictures, then join Jackie in the Haven Cafe where we lunched on mixed seafood platter, chips, peas, and salad for me, and a jacket potato heaped with cheese and coleslaw for Jackie.

Despite our capacious cafe repast, we managed to dine on a little of Jackie’s splendid pork paprika and special fried rice, followed by chocolate eclairs, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I imbibed more of the malbec, still drinkable after the best part of a week.

That, of course, was after we had installed the new freezer.

Fried Egg On Toast

Today was a real scorcher. I set off for the rose garden rather early, intending simply to dig a few holes for the plants plonked yesterday. No such luck. The head gardener had already been out there for an hour. On the south side of the entrance arch had straggled two rather unattractive shrubs. Jackie had decided they had to go, and consequently cut them right back. All that was left were one thick trunk and masses of quite mature suckers. After carting her clippings to the burning pile, I set to with fork, axe, and saw, to remove them. This took quite some time, not helped by the pottery shards, CDs, plant labels, and bits of plastic and polystyrene, typical of our predecessors’ composting, that were tangled among the roots. We then boasted a clear trellis on which to plant the next climbing rose.Arch trellis

That was enough for the morning. After a short break, Jackie continued watering, and I ambled down to the corner of Roger’s field and back.

Bidens, cosmos, daisies, and lobelia

Neither of us had known bidens other than the normal yellow,

Bidens and petunias

so we are quite pleased with this unusual variety obtained from Ferndene Farm Shop.

Woodlouse in cobweb

A wayward woodlouse, suspended from a cobweb on a back drive stump, cast a static shadow.

Dappled tarmac

Strong sunlight dappled the tarmac on Downton Lane.

Snail on nettle

A congealed fried egg on nettle toast in the hedgerow revealed itself to be an over-adventurous snail.

This afternoon we planted yesterday’s floral purchases.

Rose garden planting

It is hard to credit that the two salvias, and what we hope is a pot-bound dwarf conifer, are occupying the place by the southern fence where a hidden bath stood a year ago.

Hydrangea climbing

This climbing hydrangea can tolerate the shade it will receive in the corner by the orange shed. Like our other additions it will grow bigger. The logs in the foreground are part of our insect hotel, which has been temporarily moved by Aaron, pending his last section of paving.

I watched two Wimbledon tennis matches on television. In the first, Novak Djokovic beat Bernard Tomic in straight sets. The second took much longer than anticipated, so we consumed our pasta and meatballs in a tomato based sauce, and salad, from trays on our knees, as we watched a thrilling match in which Serena Williams beat Heather Watson by taking the third set 7 – 5. A red Cotes de Bordeaux 2012 helped to mitigate my excitement. Miraculously, my shirt was unscathed.

A Pair Of Frogs

Path along back of house a.m.Path for clearanceJackie and I spent the whole of this gloriously sunny day on path clearance in the garden. She worked on the brick one at the back of the house, whilst I concentrated on a gravelled track further along our plot.

The plastic bucket on my path has no bottom. There are a number of such receptacles in the flower beds. Perhaps they had a protective role with seedlings.

Because this thoroughfare has a fabric lining and has been more recently trodden, my task was easier than when working on the last one. There was, however, much weeding and defining of borders to carry out, with the usual final raking smooth. A cotoneaster that had obviously been cut back a few times was quite an obstacle to progress. This is because I decided to remove it, first removing the branches, then extracting the tough old stump, following the same process as with the hollies. Here are a couple of photographs of the finished job:Path clearedPath cleared 2Poppies

We are fortunate that the glorious red poppies are still such a focal point, because they took quite a battering in the recent storms, but are now finding the strength to stand proud again.

The flower beds and shrubberies also need extensive weeding, but we have chosen to focus on the paths first because that gives a generally tended appearance if you don’t look too closely at the rampant brambles and suchlike elsewhere. Inevitably some of these other areas do receive some attention, if only to prevent further invasion of the paths. Garden through weeping birch leavesCrow on rooftopThe result is that it is not only the footpaths that are seen in a new light, but new vistas across the garden are opened up. Crow on chimney potsThe beautiful rhododendron in these photographs was largely obscured from across the garden just a few days ago.

I took some time out to watch a considerable corvine conflict on our chimney pots. There is usually one crow or another perched up there shouting the odds or playing sentinel. This afternoon there were often three of four flapping, croaking, and pecking at each other. They didn’t stay around to be photographed, so I had to settle for one lookout and one guardian portrait.

Jackie clearing up after crearing pathFrogsJackie made a beautiful job of her path, and went on to tidy up the surrounding areas. There are a number of small home made ponds in the garden stocked with aquatic plants. One of these was in the bed behind the patio. It needed clearing out and freshly watering for the sake of the atmosphere as much as for the plants. She did this, and in the process, not content with her recent amphibian discovery, found a pair of frogs hibernating in the undergrowth. She returned them, a bit mossy, to their rightful position on the edge of the pond. Rose climbing peachIrisThe whole area around this water feature needed tidying up, which she did, and went on to carry out some heavy pruning of various shrubs, thus liberating a mature peach climbing rose. I rather colourful iris was also exposed for the first time.

We dined on Jackie’s sausage and liver casserole, mashed potato, carrots and green beans. And very good it was too. I finished the Languedoc whilst she drank her customary Hoegaarden.

We finished our drinks on the garden bench. One of the many trees that we don’t recognise, has a rather colourful green and yellow sinuously striped bark. Snail on tree trunkWe noticed that a snail was hoping to use it as a camouflage.

Can anyone identify the tree? This is what the branches carry:Leaves of stripy tree                            P.S. Jackie’s research has revealed that the tree is a member of the snake bark maple group, probably Hers maple, native to China.

‘Er Indoors

Judith photographing landscape 8.12

Last night and this morning I read ‘Roman Britain’, Peter Salway’s contribution to the 1984 Oxford Illustrated History of Britain, another of Ann’s books.

Thierry and Geoffrey arrived early to continue the work.  It won’t be finished before I leave, but, no matter, much was done.  They had been awaiting instruction from Saufiene who was in Tunisia.

When, in August last year, I had walked with Judith (posted 10th August), a broad circular route on the perimeter of which lies Mescoules, the conditions had been so different.  Then it had been a blazing hot day.  Today was cold, damp, and overcast.  Cattle in fieldCattle seemingly lying in a field amidst tall grass stirred themselves into an ungainly gallop as I approached, and stood expectantly by a water-trough in a far corner they knew I must pass.Calves  The adults soon lost interest in empty-handed me and, whilst they were there, visited the trough, now surrounded by a quagmire.  I retained the calves’ interest a bit longer.

Tractor tracksTractor tracks through a barleyfield left an interesting pattern, such as might be considered a crop circle message.

At least the snails were enjoying the weather.Snail

This seemed a longer stretch than I remember it.  Perhaps it does on a dull day without company.  Had I held my nerve for a few yards longer, I would have passed a smallholding I recognised and not felt the need to reassure myself by asking for directions of the only person I met en route.

A gentleman was standing, legs astride, with his back to me, beside his van parked alongside a house.  He emitted a stream, shook his right elbow, hoisted his shoulders in a shrug, and lifted the arm about a zip’s length.  The French are more relaxed about these things.  Perhaps it was his own house and he had forgotten to take a leak before he left it.  Having politely waited for him to finish I asked him the way to Sigoules.  To my relief, he confirmed my intentions and told me I had an hour to go.  Fortunately it only took 45 minutes, as the rain soon came down again.

Lunch at Le Code Bar consisted of noodle soup; chitterling salad; tender beef served with penne pasta; and apple tart.  I could have had salmon salad, but chose the chitterling because the only other time I had attempted to eat one it had been raw.  I swear the butcher had told me this was an option.  It hadn’t been palatable.  When I told David this he curled his lip in distaste.

Back at the house the trapdoor remained a problem.  Thierry is to make another, much lighter model, in his own workshop.  Even with a new system this very heavy, subject to moisture, and knackered current door will be cumbersome and just as difficult to dislodge.  I told him to stop struggling with it.

I shared great fun with the builders as I tried to explain the epithets ‘er indoors’ and ‘she who must be obeyed’ from the long-running television series ‘Minder’ and ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’.  They had asked me for the English version of femme, as in wife or Mrs.  I felt obliged to give them options.

The Stockpot

Last night Elizabeth told us she had found a golf ball on her bedroom floor (see post of 8th. September).

It was a pretty drizzly day today.  Michael came down and spent the morning with us, after which Jackie drove me to Winchester to collect the plants left behind yesterday.  As she was on holiday she thought she would like an ice cream, which she consumed with a superb chocolate eclair whilst I drank a double espresso in two mouthfuls.  A boy in his first year or so at school, with his finger up his nose, kept asking, at full decibels, what was his father’s favourite colour.  Being unable to quieten his son the man offered the opinion that perhaps his teacher should be asked to focus on his behaviour.

A young, very tanned, man sat cross-legged in a doorway.  We wondered whether he was the owner of the bicycle bearing a placard asking people to ‘SAVE TIBET’.  A rather older gentleman carrying a folding white stick told us, as he put up his rain hood and tightly buttoned his coat, that the weather was going to deteriorate from tonight.  We thanked him for the information.  The young man seemed unconcerned.

We wandered down the High Street and into the Cathedral precincts.  There was such a wealth of history in the buildings that a piece of Roman pavement in a corner of the Deanery could seem to have been forgotten and almost buried in what is now a second-hand bookshop, selling what look like donated books in order raise funds for the cathedral.  I delighted the custodian by selecting a P. D. James novel.  We held a mutual belief that it is the depth of her characterisation that marks her out as an author.  Jackie was interested in my other choice, a book on Elizabethan England by A.L. Rowse.

Following the signs to the Water Meadows we found ourselves by what we took to be the river Itchen, and strolled along it for a while.  At one point we were intrigued by a conversation between a grasshopper and a snail perched on either side of a bent umbellifer stem.

For our evening meal, Jackie fried another couple of sausages and added them to the still plentiful left over sausage and bacon casserole.  A Firs Mess (see 2nd. September) completed the meal, which, for Elizabeth and me was complemented by Villapani 2011, and for Jackie by Buddweiser.  The now very tasty stock from my original casserole turned the conversation to stockpots.  The only person I know who now keeps a traditional stockpot is my friend Norman.  This is a continuing pan of juices from cooked dishes which is constantly reused and added to over a period of time.  In the old days this never left the kitchen stove.  Because Norman doesn’t have the old kitchen range, and doesn’t cook every day, he keeps his pot in the fridge.  I can assure you it is put to good use.  Ann, the late wife of my friend Don (see 10th. August), told me she knew of a woman in Cerrigydrudion, where they had their Welsh home, who had kept a stockpot going for fifty years.  A small chain of restaurants in the very heart of Central London is one of Norman’s favourite haunts.  Given their situation, these establishments offer an incredibly cheap, very well cooked, range of basic, tasty meals.  Norman is something of a gourmet, and his recommendation is not to be discounted. I know, I’ve followed it.  The chain is called The Stockpot.  As the founder has retired they are all on a franchise now.

Buddy

On this much brighter, yet very windy, and not entirely rain-free, morning I set off by my usual route to Carol’s in SW1.  Links Avenue and Crown Lane were festooned with laminated posters advertising two different, and seperate, lost cats.  Since I saw none proclaiming found felines and there were clear photographs and full descriptions of the missing animals, I am unlikely to get into the Brendan (see 26th. June) situation again.  London Transport police were monitoring the chaotic crowds boarding buses outside the tube station.  Someone had dropped a fresh pasty outside Greggs, the bakers.  Imagine the disappointment at standing with mouth open, expecting to savour that first bite, and the snack slipping from your fingers.

Snail, Wandle trail 7.12

Magpies were drinking from a pool in the very muddy footpath in Morden Hall Park.  I’ll probably never get my toenails clean.

This is one of the fallen trees forming primitive bridges across the river Wandle.

As always in the morning, the tube trains were littered with discarded copies of Metro, a free newspaper.  Aiming for the escalator at a jam-packed Victoria underground station, a woman dragged her wheeled container over my foot. ‘Oh, look what you’re doing with it.’ was my irritated response.  Her male companion had the good sense to hold back when he considered crossing my path at the top.

The gents toilet in Victoria Station was strewn with the usual yellow cones warning of a wet floor.  One bore what I assumed to be a translation in a language with which I am unfamiliar.  It read: ‘Piso Mojado’.  A dog had left a deposit on the pavement outside the Westminster Bank in Victoria Street.

Opposite Victoria Station stands the Victoria Palace Theatre.  I have attended two and a half performances there in the past, one of them augmented by my own.  ‘Billy Elliot’ has been playing there for some years.  It is quite the best stage production of its kind that I have ever seen.  During the first week, for Louisa’s birthday, I took her and Errol to see the show.  At the time the film was one of Louisa’s favourites.  Naturally we had a curry beforehand.

Some years earlier, soon after Becky had returned to London from Newark, I arranged to meet her at Victoria Station to take her to the Victoria Palace to see one of the opening performances of ‘Buddy’.  She didn’t turn up.  Since this was most unlike either one of my two reliable daughters I waited an hour.  The only other person I have ever waited for that long was her mother on our first date, again at Victoria Station.  Having finally given up on Becky, wondering what on earth had gone wrong, which probably affected my mood, I went to the theatre, explained the situation, and asked for a refund.  This was not possible.  I asked to speak to the manager.  He was unavailable.  ‘OK,’ said I, tearing up the tickets which I threw into the office, ‘you have these, they’re no good to me.’  Storming out of the theatre in high dudgeon, I walked straight into Becky.

Somewhat shame-faced we returned to the ticket office where I sought admission.  There was now a different booking clerk.  We could not gain admission because the show had started and anyway I didn’t have any tickets.  I quickly replaced my blown gasket and again asked to speak to the manager.  This time I was invited to wait for the intermission when he might just possibly be available.  He did indeed materialise.  The jigsaw puzzle that was the shredded tickets was fished out of the wastepaper basket, pieced together, and closely scrutinised.  We now found that the manager was sympathetic to our plight.  He had actually appeared before the intermission but invited us to wait until then and enter the theatre during the break.  We were given two much better seats and tickets for a future complete performance. Is that ever likely to happen again?   ‘That’ll be the day’.

Our evening meal tonight consisted of Jackie’s Penne Pasta and my Mehti Ghost and rice; each made some time ago; and each served up on the same plate.  Jackie had a small bottle of Hoegaarden and I had a couple of glasses of the Campo Viejo 2007 reserve rioja which Danni gave me for my birthday.