The Sap Is Rising

A light frost fell on the fields last night and Jackie had to scrape ice off the windscreen before driving me to the G.P. surgery at Milford on Sea for the successful removal of the staples from my knee. Rather unfairly, it seems to me, some members of the medical fraternities and sororities refer to orthopaedics as ‘The Carpenters’. However, I have to say that the curving row of hurdles penetrating my flesh did look as if it has been applied by an upholsterer’s gun. The nurse’s staple remover was a little more delicate than those found in Staples stationary stores.

After this we travelled along the coast road, where I began my morning’s photoshoots through my passenger window.

The Needles convoy trailed after the Isle of Wight lighthouse;

Also silhouetted along the Milford coastline were walkers with dogs and a woman pushing a child in a buggy;

A few gulls wandered about the car parks, where a crow set itself up for a long vigil.

Turning away from the coast we set off along the Beaulieu Road out of Lymington, where ponies, the silvery greys blending with similar hued birches, enhanced the landscape.

On Bull Hill, the younger cattle squared up for head butts, competing for or waiting their turn for humping practice. The older beasts watched in silence. The sap was definitely rising.

Whilst in Pilley we briefly visited Elizabeth who had spent the morning with BT engineers attempting to discover why her landline had stopped working.

A trio of goats we passed in Warborne Lane on our way home were rather less frisky than their bovine neighbours.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s tasty chicken jalfrezi with savoury rice.

P. S. Jackie has researched the activities of the young heifers. This is what she learned from Wikipedia:

‘Bulling is a behaviour seen in cattle when one mounts another, usually when one or the other is a female in oestrus (on heat);[1] “bulling” is commonly used as a term for a female in oestrus. Female cattle in oestrus may mount any adult cattle, especially a bull (fertile male) if one is present, but they will also mount castrated males or other females. A bulling female will often also be mounted by other cattle, both male and female (only fertile males are usually capable of mating). A dominant bull will defend the bulling female from being mounted by other cattle.

Bulling is used by farmers to recognise oestrus, which is important to determine the fertile period when cows may be artificially inseminated.[1] Care is needed to identify whether the animal in oestrus is the one mounting or being mounted, and of course sometimes both animals may be in oestrus.

Mounting behaviour is also sometimes seen between adult cattle in the absence of a female in oestrus.’

Escape From Alcatraz

LilyPlate on bed headToday’s Lily, yet another different variety, has two layers of petals.

After Jackie, making use of a couple of plates from the rail of the too large IKEA wardrobes, had repaired the bed head screwed to the weeping birch, we spent a long day completing the work on the clematis montana fence in the kitchen garden.

Fortunately, when clearing the bed head bed of brambles, crocosmia luciferI had managed to preserve what turned out to be crocosmia lucifer, now blooming above the erstwhile wooden ornamental feature.

Had I not been familiar with what the DIY efforts of our predecessor had perpetrated inside the house, I may have had trouble believing what, once we had cleared away enough foliage, he had attached to our neighbour’s fence. Nail through bar on fenceBar and netting on fenceBut there was no mistaking his technique for putting in awkward nails. A stout post had been driven into the ground from our side, and a beam attached to it at one end of the fence. He must have possessed only one sustaining post because the other end of the long strut was nailed directly into the top of the fence. The diagonally driven nail wasn’t really doing much by now, and was fixed in exactly the same manner as a rough-hewn piece of deal placed across the jamb of one of the kitchen doors which had been blocked up by our vendors’ fridge.

Derrick hacking wire on fenceWhat I described yesterday as wire netting was more like the grille at a prison window. Framework off fenceEven Clint Eastwood, as Frank Morris, in the 1979 film ‘Escape from Alcatraz’, would have had trouble getting through that. Heavy duty staples had bound it both to the upright wooden post and to the horizontal beam. A smaller variety, driven into the planks of the fence, Jackie had been able to tap out with a hammer and screwdriver. The large, thick, ones would not budge. The grille itself was going to have to be cut.

Some kind of black plastic material had been wound around the clematis and bramble jumble at the top of this structure. I can only imagine its purpose was to prevent the brambles that had rooted on the other side of the fence from returning home.

Milford Supplies once more had the benefit of our custom, as Jackie drove off to buy a suitable implement, whilst I continued to move brushwood to the site of the bonfire and chop it up. She returned with mini bolt cutters which looked just the job. No such luck. They barely dented the metal. I had to hack off with a saw each piece held by a staple. Eventually we pulled the whole frame towards us, left it standing, and had some lunch. Afterwards I broke up the frame and hacked off all the bits of grille.

kitchen garden entrancePatch in kitchen gardenLong after I was done for the day, Superwoman continued to open up the entrance to this part of the garden even more. In doing so she discovered that underneath the earth and rubble are signs of a brick pavement.

After that, she fed us on chicken jalfrezi (recipe) and onion, peas and sweetcorn rice, with which we drank Cobra beer. This was followed by Post House Pud, with summer fruits as the base.

West Quay

Nasturtium 9.12This was a beautiful, crisp, autumn morning.  It followed a week of rain.  The deep blue heliotrope which had sat on a chamber pot on the two-tone blue garden table had become waterlogged and drowned.  As Jackie and I sat with our morning coffee we had that sense of ‘what now?  the job’s done’.  But that didn’t stop us enjoying the garden.

I walked down Upper New Road to In-Excess in West End High Street in search of more display books for Mum’s project.  They didn’t have any, so I returned via West End Road.  When you read this, and especially what follows, Mum, I hope you appreciate the effort that’s gone into tracking down these folders.

Much of the day, apart from a trip to Southampton, was spent printing out my posts.

After lunch Jackie and I went to Sainsbury’s  superstore in Hedge End and bought the wine for next weekend’s grand event.  We then went on to Southampton’s Staples in search  of the display books.  We were headed for the Retail Village in West Quay.  Elizabeth had given us a Super Red Book, the local map for Southampton.  The map was clear, we thought.  All we had to do was work out where to start from and follow the roads marked.  Easy enough.  Really very soon, having driven along Bitterne Road, we passed a sign welcoming us to Southampton.  Then we hit the traffic.  A continuous stream in front of us suggested that the whole of the West Country was headed for the docks, and probably West Quay.  That, whilst we knew where we were going, simply demanded patience.  Soon it got a bit more complicated.  I was navigating, and Jackie was trying to interpret the road signs.  Tying up the actual road layout with what looks straightforward on the map tends to be rather confusing.  Anyone who has driven before the days of the Satnav will understand this problem.  If only you could pull over and get your bearings.  Not possible without parking where you shouldn’t, or sending another driver into an apopleptic fit.  On one occasion it was a pedestrian we upset.  Jackie, having stopped at traffic lights, had been going to drive straight on.  She was positioned in the correct lane for that when I gently suggested that she should turn left.  This involved a three point turn at the crossroads.  A pedestrian attempting to cross, actually against a red light, got a bit cheeky.  Following a sign to to the south circular road, we ended up in New Road which didn’t seem to make much sense.  Again changing lanes at traffic lights we headed down Palmerston Road and into more confusion.  I have always believed that the Satnav has rescued an awful lot of marriages.

It was with some relief that I espied the familiar blue and yellow of an Ikea building.  I remembered passing that last week when Elizabeth had driven me to Staples.  We were obviously somewhere near the retail village.  This, we now knew, meant a right turn.  The trouble was there were no more signs to West Quay or Retail Village.  Each right turn seemed to lead either to an hotel or a car park.  We had plenty of time to work it out as the traffic was solid. Harbour Parade was what we wanted.  Fortunately we took the correct turning into it.  We still weren’t clear of car parks and found we needed to extricate ourselves from a few.  Reading the directional arrows on the tarmac of these places can send you round and round in circles for some time, especially if the Exit signs are lacking.  Eventually we found ourselves in ToysRus car park, within sight of Ikea.  But we hadn’t found Staples.  It was at this point that I remembered that Elizabeth had approached the Retail Village from the motorway to the north of Southampton.  She had erroneously thought she had gone a long way round.  As we had gone through Southampton we had approached Ikea on our right.  Elizabeth’s route had been with the landmark on her left.  This made a bit of difference,  I phoned Elizabeth, told her where we were, and asked her for directions.  ‘Somewhere between where you are and Ikea’, was the best she could come up with.  It was, in fact, perfect.  Staples emerged into view and we parked outside with some relief.  Jackie, who has, for many years, visited mother and sisters in the area, said: ‘now I remember why we always avoided Southampton’.

Staples had the binders.  I scooped up an armful and we were soon on our way back.  This time on the motorway.  Elizabeth, you were not wrong to use it.

This evening we dined on roast chicken followed by The Firs mess.  Elizabeth and I drank a couple of different red wines and Jackie consumed Hoegaarden.

Leaving Home

China garden interim course 9.12

A Scrabble chat with my friend June Brokas, about her daughter and my granddaughter going off to university, reminded me of the times Michael left home.  Ever a resourceful and determined young man, sometime around 1980, my eldest son bought a two up, two down, cottage in South Wimbledon and converted into two flats which he sold on.  With my nephew James, and a carpenter, he carried an RSJ up a spiral staircase they had fitted themselves.  He couldn’t afford a crane.  That is how his extremely successful building and decorating company, Able Assignments, began. If you need any suitable work done in or around South West London, check it out.

That was the commercial.  Now for Mike’s bid for independence.  His intention was to live in his newly acquired property while he and the lads carried out the conversion.  The first night he was back home.  There was no electricity.  Could he stay until it was turned on?  Of course he could.  It was only for a day or two.  When the supply was connected he returned to his adventure.  A few days later, there he was, on the doorstep, asking: ‘can I come back.  I can’t live in that crap’.  Of course he could.  Stay, not live in that crap.  It was only for a few months.

On this gloomy Sunday morning, back in Morden, I walked down Morden Road to Staples to buy some more display files for Mum’s birthday project.  When I arrived they were closed.  It was still only 9.45.  You have to walk all the way round a large area of railing to get to the front door in order to read specific opening hours.  I could see the doors were shuttered and, rather than make this trip, I assumed they’d be open at 10.  I went on across the High Street, along Merton Road and Wimbledon Broadway as far as the railway station.  By this time the rain had set in, and, not having gone equipped, I boarded a 57 bus back to South Wimbledon, from where I walked back to Staples, which was still closed.  This time I read the notice which informed me that the store does not open on Sundays until 11 a.m., which was still 35 minutes away.  Now rather wet, I turned away, deciding there was no point in sheltering on a bus for the rest of the journey, which I made on foot.  A young Asian man, no better protected from the weather, looking at the shuttered doorway and the size of the establishment, asked me if it was a warehouse.  I said it was so big it looked like one, but it was a retail outlet, not open until 11.  He asked if there was anywhere he could wait, as it was important for him to buy whatever he had come for.  I directed him to a cafe, saying I could wait until tomorrow.  I arrived home before Staples would have opened.

Football training was being conducted in Abbey Recreation Ground on Morden Road.

We had a lazy afternoon on computers.  I played on-line Scrabble and Jackie browsed for plants suitable for the variable Firs soils. In the evening we dined at The China Garden.  The meals were, as usual, crisp and tasty.  I drank half a bottle of Chateau du Souzay Beaujolais-Villages 2011 and Jackie enjoyed a bottle of Tsingtao beer.  When we returned to Links Avenue we unloaded the bags we had been too tired last night to deal with.  The rain was hammering down.  Jackie had chosen the best possible three weeks for her holiday.

The Franking Machine

Early this morning all the bird feeders were providing avian breakfast, with the bird bath supplying facilities for a wash and brush up. Watching the splashing about, we surmised that the birds had found the pond water too inaccessible, and consequently welcomed a raised plinth.  Our robin had a fight with his rival over his feeder.  A blackbird considered joining in, but thought better of it.  Later, a hopeful tit was similarly driven off.

Stepping stones 9.12

Tidying up the last of the pillar bits, we used the concrete bases to provide stepping stones through the shrubbery bed.  This is proving to be a delicate and difficult process, involving digging deep into stony soil; hacking through stubborn tree roots; then trying to level off the weighty lumps which were originally set in assorted rubble, and therefore of very uneven shapes and depths.  And to think that, as the last of the new beds has been completed, I thought I’d have a rest from arduous digging.  Today I got no further than placing the seven steps and burying three.  These had to be moved across the garden and dropped into place by sack barrow.  The concrete itself is very abrasive on the hands. Elizabeth’s £12 auction buy has turned out to be an excellent acquisition.

Lynne popped in for coffee and we discussed he demise of the helping professions as we had known them, bearing in mind that she and Jackie are still working in them.  I joined the  conversation at the point when Lynne was describing taking out an elderly woman’s teeth because she was so frightened she bit carers and hung on like a Rottweiler.  I expressed surprise at this, wondering how they had got away with it, thinking of Lawrence Olivier’s dentist character in the film Marathon Man.  Jackie explained that this simply meant not giving the client her false teeth until they had finished what they had to do.  They found it less painful being gummed than bitten.

Having run out of paper for the ramblings printing project, Jackie and I went on an unsuccessful search for some more.  Since one of the stores we visited was next door to Haskins, it was me, this time who couldn’t pass it.  I bought more bird food and another feeder which I hung in the bay tree.  Since both Jackie and I are constantly nutting this nut dispenser, I’ll have to raise it.

Anyone who reads this before I’ve finished it may care to have a look later.  I hit ‘Publish’, instead of ‘Save draft’.

Later.  Elizabeth drove me to Staples in Southampton, where I obtained the relevant printing paper.  Elizabeth also bought some filing equipment.  When at the till she had proffered £16.00 for a £5.50 bill.  This was intended to help the young lady.  It confused her.  She gave Elizabeth £5.00 in change.  Elizabeth pointed out that she had given £10.00 plus £1.00.  The assistant had to summon a manager to put things right.  Intending to reassure her I told her about the Great Franking Machine Error.  An eighteen year old me, working at Lloyd’s, had been given the most responsible job of operating the franking machine.  This had a series of levers which would set the correct amount of postage for each missive.  Mostly the figure would be that for an ordinary letter.  Occasionally something more expensive would require a sticky label with a larger sum applied.  One day I had a parcel which cost £30.00.  This I entered into the machine and printed the label.  Then, without changing the setting, I put through a large batch of letters.  Realising what I had done, I confessed.  All was, of course, put right, but the petrified me didn’t know that would be possible.  The young girl paid no attention to my story as she anxiously awaited the arrival of the manager.  I knew exactly how she felt.  It is interesting that this story should come to me on the day I hit the wrong key here.

When we returned to The Firs we found that Jackie had placed the last two pieces of brick pillar, one to make another bird bath, and another to take a plant.  This was no mean feat.

Danni visited and volunteered to cook.  She produced ‘stuff’, which I would translate as a spicy and tasty beef curry.  The Firs mess was for afters.  Jackie drank Hoegaarden and the other three of us a Maipo valley red wine, some of which was knocked over onto the table.