The Last Of The Snow

Our weather is predicted to turn much milder overnight. We can expect some days of warmer temperatures and overcast skies. Today continued cold and bright. A drive into the forest was therefore in order.

Snow lingered on the landscape on either side of Holmsley Passage,

where an unfortunate young biker had landed in a ditch. Another biker and a couple from a car had stopped to render assistance, which, given that I was unable to leave the car, was fortunate.

The banks of this pool on the road to the right of the passage were also dusted with sugar icing.

The New Forest ponies are a tough breed and seem oblivious to the hardened terrain as they carry on grazing regardless.

This evening we dined on spicy pizza and plentiful fresh salad.

Well Camouflaged

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More snow fell overnight and earlier this morning, so off we went for a forest drive.

Before this we had to listen to the chattering of the residents of the garden who were beginning to feel the cold.

We headed for Crow, where we lunched at the Farm Café. Jackie parked beside Leybrooke Bridge on Dragon Lane, and I took a few photographs of lanes

and stream.

Scattering of snow on the moors, like these around Burley blended with pools, gorse, grass, bracken, and trees to produce sweeping throws of natural wool yarn.

The hardy ponies clung to the shelter of wooded areas where they fed on holly and gorse. Normally the greys stand out well against the greenery around them. Today, however, they were very well camouflaged.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s sublime sausage casserole, mashed potatoes and swede, crisp carrots and piquant cauliflower swede. I drank Cru de la Vallée du Rhone Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2015.

Forlorn

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Before I remembered I was supposed to be 75, the little boy in me became so excited that I dashed into the garden this morning to taste the icing on the cake.

After a few cups of coffee, with lumps in our throats, Jackie and I transported Flo and Dillon to Becky and Ian’s new home at Southbourne, near Emsworth, so that our daughter could drive them on to Matthew and Tess’s at Upper Dicker, for an overnight visit before returning to South Carolina via Canada, flying from Gatwick.

We then aimed for lunch at Westbourne’s Spice Cottage. Unfortunately this was closed. We then enjoyed a meal at the recently opened Darbar in Emsworth. This restaurant describes itself thus:

‘Muglai cuisine was introduced to India by the royal kitchens of the Mugal emperors who ruled from the 16th century onwards. Cooking was elevated to an art form.

Strongly influenced by Persian cooking from Iran, the food reflected the royal love of beauty: sumptuous, complex and sophisticated. Dried fruits, nuts and rich spices were incorporated into meat, vegetarian and rice dishes. Notable Muglai meals included biriyani, kebabs, kofta and delicacies from the tandoor. The Mugals also introduced to India the tradition of concluding the meal with desserts. The result was fragrant, heady and flavorsome, fit for royalty.

Darbar’s team of expert chefs bring the Mugal emperors’ cuisine to Emsworth.’

By and large this claim was justified. There was just one other couple with two small children also eating there. The aroma that assailed my nostrils on entering was rather less fragrant than I had hoped.  I detected a whiff of some rather strong cleaning fluid sending me speculating about what they may have been subjected to the night before.

The menu contained some items marked with a chilli symbol indicating that customers could specify the required heat. I chose a meal containing a variety of seafoods, which featured such a symbol. The waiter explained that one of the ingredients was not available, and steered me towards nilgiri jheenga which had no picture of a chilli. I pointed this out and expressed my desire for heat. The staff member said he could make it spicy. In fact it was not hot at all, but tasty, colourful, and fragrant, as was the saffron and mushroom rice. Jackie enjoyed her authentic saag panneer. The layered paratha was excellent. Our desserts were shahi tukra and shrikhand. Both were delicately aromatic. Service was friendly and attentive. Jackie drank Diet Coke and I drank Cobra.

There was less snow in West Sussex than was still lying on the moors as we drove back into the New Forest,

where snow bearing boughs admired their beauty in limpid pools.

Pretty patterns were traced on rooftops at East End, where ponies played with the traffic and forlorn-looking donkeys shivered on the verges.

 

Snowponies

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I was banned from the kitchen this morning in order to allow Richard to catch up on his largely snowbound day yesterday.

Rain and a slight rise in temperature had brought about the beginnings of a thaw, so Jackie drove us into the forest on roads that were no longer icy.

They were rather more slushy;

ditches, like this one with a birch perched on its bank, were still iced over;

and snow, still lying beneath trees, streaked the moors.

Rain falling from a leaden sky made heavier the coats of drooping ponies trudging across the roads.

Ponies, snow, bracken, gorsePonies, snow, bracken, gorsePony, snow, bracken, gorsePony, snow, bracken, gorse

A pair of grey snowponies, hoping for cosy scarves and carrots, had not yet begun to melt.

Steak and pizza

At Bransgore we lunched at The Crown Inn, of the Vintage Inn chain. We both enjoyed our meals. Jackie’s was pizza diablo with chips; mine, also with chips, was rib eye steak with peppercorn sauce, tomato, onion rings, and green salad. Jackie drank Amstel and I drank Razor Back, still known as Ringwood’s Best.

Outside Bransgore, on our way home, we noticed a sheep trying to supplement its wool with a straw shawl, whilst neighbouring alpacas grazed.

Richard had not been idle. He had fitted most of the cupboard doors,

continuing with them and adding the hob before leaving a little later. The dishwasher door display is projected onto the floor.

This evening’s meal consisted of instant minestrone, chicken tikka, and tomatoes.

Carefully Cutting To Shape

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Compared with that experienced in other parts of the world, including the rest of the UK, the Christmas cake icing barely coating our garden when we awoke this morning could hardly be called snow. It was a little thicker later on,

and by late afternoon could even display avian footprints.

The Waterboy’s fountain was so frozen that its pump had to be turned off.

Despite a heavy cold, Conor turned up early this morning and completed the flooring. Some of the furniture had been placed in the far left corner to enable him to cover all the other areas. When he was ready to fill that space he rang for help to move the items off the previously prepared screed. Within ten minutes Andy arrived to help. A sheet of plywood was utilised to protect the new flooring. Andy, working at his usual rate of knots, didn’t even take time to remove the hooded jacket that had protected him from the sweeping snowflakes.

Once the final screed base had dried, Conor, carefully, cutting to shape where necessary, completed the job to an exemplary standard.

The fact that we ate at The Royal Oak for the third night running had more to do with the treacherous weather conditions than anything else. This was no hardship. I enjoyed my chicken ham hock, and cider pie in short crust pastry with red wine sauce, broccoli, manges touts,  peas, and mashed potato accompanied by Razor Back beer; Jackie was equally happy with her barbecue flavoured macaroni cheese and garlic bread. She drank Amstell.

Snow On The Eucalyptus

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By the time Jackie and I returned from the forest yesterday evening, Richard had fitted

Cupboard

all the smooth-running drawers

Sink and draining board

and splash trims to the worktops. I had planned to photograph these before he arrived this morning, but I overslept, so I got in his way again.

Wadding under shelf

At top left of the above picture can be seen the new oak windowsill, under which wadding has been applied.

This had been the site of the old kitchen sink. Our friend decided to lower the power points now half way up the wall, and to fit new skirting board.

Other electrical work included the fitting of strip lighting. The first two of these pictures shows the wiring of the larder cupboard with Richard pressing the switch which will be operated by the opening and closing of the door. Beneath the materials in the cupboard can be seen the quartz base to the food store. The electrician holds a reel of LED lights from which he cuts a suitable length. The last of these pictures is the strip over the long worktop.

Yesterday, in describing the core cutting for the extractor fan ducting I did not give enough emphasis to the fact that both these holes were cut through solid concrete blocks en route to the new outside wall.

The first cut, through the wall above the hobs, takes us into what was the garage.

Extractor fan casing

Later, Richard made a casing for the extractor.

On the front drive, beyond Richard wielding the saw, can be seen the cold dry cotton balls that fell from the sky whilst he was thus engaged. Viewing the first picture above full size in the gallery will show that the ice in the Waterboy’s shell has only been disturbed by the running flow. I wonder how many eucalypts, like that in the third image, have gathered a coating of snow.

This evening, the management having changed, we dined at The Royal Oak, just two buildings away. The new team have only been in occupation 5 days, so it was quite quiet. A new, much more tasteful, ambience has been created. Service and food were very good. I enjoyed a rib eye steak, cooked exactly as I asked; Jackie was equally pleased with her gammon steak. She drank Amstel, and I drank Ringwood’s Forty-niner.

Wishing All My Readers Happiness In Their Own Festive Season

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Much of today was spent writing Christmas cards.

It therefore seemed appropriate to present this selection from my archives,

from which readers can choose their own with my best wishes. In order of appearance, the three Christmas cards were designed by me aged 16, 17, and 18. They represent the three kings, the shepherds, and Mary and Jesus from the Christian Nativity story.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s excellent chilli con carne, savoury rice, and vegetable samosas, with which I drank more of the Cabernet Sauvignon.