The Floating Fortress

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This cold and wet morning we visited Anne at Kitchen Makers in Sway to discuss the finer points of our new kitchen construction. Next, we delivered a batch of photographs to Lal Quilla in Lymington for Raj to make his selection; then I ordered some currency from the bank. Most of the rest of the day was spent on mundane administration on my part, and necessary shopping on Jackie’s

As so often, the skies cleared towards evening and a good sunset was promised. We were not disappointed as we drove down to Barton on Sea.

The lowering sun brush-strokes on Roger Cobb’s field of stubble.

We watched the changing palette of the skies above Christchurch Bay, as gentle pastel shades,

Isle of Wight at sunset

especially over the Isle of Wight,

Sea at sunset

and in the water itself,

gradually deepened,

Sunset, silhouettes 2

throwing walkers into silhouette.

A luminous glow blazed briefly from an apparent floating fortress on the horizon, fizzling out within minutes.

This evening we dined on perfect roast chicken, roast and mashed potatoes, mini Yorkshire puddings, flavoursome mushrooms, crisp carrots and firm Brussels sprouts. I finished the Minervois.

Fire Up Above And Fire Down Below

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1ST DECEMBER 2017

This is being posted two days late because we went away for the weekend and I forgot to take my laptop charger with me.

Christmas trees

You have to be quick to secure a Ferndene Farm Shop Christmas tree. Before setting off for Bicester, we bought one and

Christmas tree

stood it in a bucket of water in the garden. The man operating the tubular apparatus that wraps the trees was a plant supplier who had popped into the shop for coffee and a cake. He found himself standing in for about ten minutes during which time he sold 7/8 trees.

Immediately afterwards we drove to Bicester in Oxfordshire where we stayed overnight at Watts Lodge, a Bed and Breakfast establishment operated by octogenarian Mr Watts, with help from his wife.

Having checked in we enjoyed a late lunch at Jacob’s Plough. My club sandwich and Jackie’s Caesar salad were very good and we were encouraged by the friendly staff to try Sainsbury’s Superstore for a charger I wasn’t optimistic, but we thought we would give it a try.

Jackie’s late former father-in-law grew up in a small thatched cottage which, as far as she can remember, stood on a site close to Sainsbury’s, now alongside a huge Travel Lodge. I am never very good at negotiating huge stores. This one was no exception. We parked on the top level of the car park. This was entitled Level 2. Even now I can’t remember the logic which was to take us down to the ground floor from which we had to ascend by travelator to the first floor of the store. Feeling like a rat in a maze, I wandered up and down several times without finding my way back into the shopping area, until a helpful customer explained the system. Among the various items of leads, cables, and suchlike, there was no such thing as a laptop charger.

Sunset

Having returned to the rooftop car park I found the best aspect of the trip. The sun

Sunset 1

was sinking

Sunset 2

over the town

Sunset 3

and I happened

Sunset

to be standing at the best viewing vantage point, outside the door to Level 2.

I did my best not to notice the trampoline effect of the surface as I walked across the store roof. As she sat in the car, Jackie found the reverberations difficult to ignore.

I understand that Bicester was once a prosperous town which lost much of its prosperity after the Americans who had been based their during the second world war pulled out some years later.

Bicester Village is a fabrication  It is a vast shopping development concentrating on the luxury market. Because of the boasted price reductions hopeful customers drive many miles to buy the designer goods. Many travel by train from London’s Marlebone station to the renamed Bicester Village (originally Town) railway station. They have no need to visit the old town. Once they have done their shopping they go home.

Opened in 1995 https://www.bicestervillage.com/en/shopping/  invites us to ‘Discover a world of luxury at Bicester Village, the region’s ultimate shopping destination. Home to more than 160 fashion and lifestyle boutiques, each offers savings of up to 60%, all year round.’

Needless to say, we didn’t visit this phenomenon, owned by Value Retail plc.

In the evening I walked into Pioneer Square and booked a table at Shakil’s restaurant.

Christmas lights

On my return I was diverted into New Road, at the end of which stands a house which is reminiscent of our Byron Road. In this case just one man assembles this display in order to raise a considerable amount of money for charity.

The meal at Shakil’s was excellent. It had been wise to book, for the place was packed out. We were advised that the nearest parking spot was Sainsbury’s car park.We therefore returned to the superstore. The public toilets underneath the building were surrounded by firefighters and a couple of engines. All seemed under control, so up we went.once more. A deafening fire alarm reverberated throughout the car park. but no-one was leaving and we knew the fire had been extinguished. Of course the lift wasn’t working, so we walked downstairs and through an alley to the restaurant.

Jackie enjoyed her chicken something, as I did my lamb naga. We both drank Kingfisher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On The Trail

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At first light this morning Jackie drove us down to the clifftop at Milford on Sea to watch the sunrise.

Isle of Wight and The Needles before sunrise

The forest behind the Isle of Wight and The Needles was a bank of clouds. The lighthouse blinked.

Sunrise 1

Soon

Sunrise with gull

a pink lining

Sunrise with gulls

came into view

Sunrise 2

over

Sunrise 3

 

to the east.

Walker at sunrise 1

Just two lone walkers

Walker at sunrise 2

braved the two degrees centigrade temperature at 7 a.m.

This afternoon we visited the New Milton toy shop to investigate Christmas presents, and decided that we needed parental advice.

Afterwards we drove into the forest.

Ponies

On the way down Holmsley Passage Jackie spotted

Ponies

a string of ponies

Ponies

crossing a ridge. Watch the wavy lines in the bracken to the right.

Ponies

She parked

Ponies

beside the stream on the lowest part of the lane, while I watched

Ponies

as the ponies

Ponies

dropped onto

Ponies

what was a trail

Ponies

they had regularly trodden.

Ponies

It was fortunate

Ponies

for me that there were a couple of greys to help me pick them out against the bracken

Ponies

 or, as they reached level ground, among the trees.

Pony

The black leader came into view and investigated the road;

Ponies

when it was pronounced clear, the others followed

Ponies

and were led

Ponies

past

Ponies

a delighted Jackie

Ponies

in the car.

Ponies

Having crossed to the other side

Ponies

they reappeared on higher ground.

Reflections in pool

Further on, up the road to Clay Hill reflections in the calm pool

Reflections in pool

were clear and bright.

Sunset

On our return the sun was setting over Holmsley;

Sunset

blazing clouds shrouded Wootton Common,

Moon and clouds

where the moon was in the ascendancy.

Trees and sunset

Trellises of tree branches

Trees and sunset

screened the pink and indigo backcloth.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s wonderful savoury rice forming a bed for tempura prawns. We both drank Maison Castel Touraine sauvignon blanc 2015.

 

Almost Blown Away

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James, of Peacock Computers, visited to examine the iMac, and took it away to restore it to working order. In anticipation of the Apple’s removal, I had scanned a set of photographic prints from May 1993 onto the Windows laptop. We had also thought the weather would be bad this afternoon and I would be able to use these to illustrate today’s post. In the event, the sun shone and the winds were high enough, at more than 50 m.p.h. to suggest a trip into the forest. The 1993 set will appear tomorrow.

Cattle on hillside

A short distance  outside East End cattle grazed on a hillside that was topped by an oak tree sporting a car tyre.

Falabella

The little falabella pony which

Ponies at poolside

sometimes joins its cousins outside St Leonard’s Grange,

Falabella pony

 

spent its time crossing from one side of the road to the other.

Ponies on road

Another just stayed in the road.

Ruin in silhouette

When we reached this point, one of the ruins of the granary was nicely silhouetted

Ruin before sunset

against the lowering sun, bestowing a sepia tone.

Pheasants

We continued along the road, intending to return for sunset. Pheasants chased each other across the lanes and the autumnal fields.

Ruin at sunset

On our return golden streaks stretched along the sky.

Skyscape

We took a diversion down Tanners Lane on our journey home. Those streaks had deepened over the Isle of Wight.

Windsurfer

The winds pressed so strongly against the car door that it felt as if it was close to a wall. Just one other vehicle was parked in front of us. Perhaps it belonged to the windsurfer

Windsurfer

who skimmed over the choppiest waves we have ever seen there,

Windsurfer

constantly changing

Windsurfer

direction, and almost blown away.

This evening we dined on Jackie;s gorgeously spicy chilli con carne, with her most savoury rice wearing an omelette jacket. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank Mendoza Parra Alta malbec 2016.

 

‘What Could Be Better?”

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Nasturtiums are the yardstick of frost. When their thick tendrils go limp and soggy and the flowers droop, we know that frost has arrived. On an overcast morning of this unseasonably oppressively warm day, I wandered out in the garden to take the measure of them.

Nasturtium 1Nasturtium 2Nasturtium 3Nasturtium 4Nasturtium 5Nasturtium 6

The flowers may look a little careworn, but they are bearing up well.

I then spent far too long fine-tuning my complaints letter to a partner of the O’Neill Patient legal firm before finally posting it by recorded delivery and e-mailing copies to our mortgage broker and to Becky. A much more pleasant task was the final bit of paperwork as an executor of my late friend Wolf’s estate.

This involved Jackie driving me to the Post Office in New Milton. We continued on to Tanner’s Lane in time for a pre-sunset look at

the shore,

where a weak sun gleamed on the water.

Gradually

the hues deepened.

While watching this, I became aware of distant exuberant voices, until one small boy rushed past me, came to a standstill,

and waited for another to join him. Perhaps you can’t run so fast in Wellies.

Off they both continued, still testing their lung capacity,

until a somewhat larger lad divided them.

Bringing up the rear was a young woman I took to be the mother of at least one of the runners. She said she often brought them down here, where they loved to run about or throw stones. They would rather do that than anything else. “What could be better?” she exclaimed.

As I returned to the car I admired the cloudscape over the Isle of Wight and The Needles.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent steak and mushroom pie, creamy mashed potatoes, crisp cabbage and crunchy carrots. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Reserve des Tuguets madiran 2014.

Only The Crows

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I spent most of the day grappling with long-distance legal professionals over a small remortgage. I cannot summon the energy to detail this, but it has been going on for weeks and has only been necessary because I am too old to secure a mortgage from my bank. I have grown heartily sick of prevaricating, incompetent, and mendacious professionals who are happy to take your money while providing a useless service.

It is thirty years since I last negotiated such a loan. In those days you could walk to an office, speak to a person, and trust that  what you were promised would be done. I don’t think I need tell anyone how it is now, in our progressive, unprincipled, digital age.

ImpatiensDragon Bed

Jackie spent much of the day in the garden where she reshaped and added plants to the Dragon Bed section beside the greenhouse.

By 4.30 p.m., for the sake of my sanity, I was desperately in need of a ride in a motor car. Jackie happily obliged.

Group on beach 1

We began with a look at the sea at Barton. One member of a group on the beach seemed to have brought along a tent;

Man and dog on beach

another man played with his dog;

Couple on bench 1

a couple sat together on a bench;

Walkers 1

Walkers,

Man and dog

one with a golden retriever, kept to the path along the clifftop.

Meeting of dog walkers

Whenever a group of dog walkers meet, they swap engaging stories about their pets. Sometimes the animals are not so friendly. Lily was in trouble. She was admonished as being very naughty for nipping one of the others.

Crumbling cliff 1

Cliffs are still crumbling.

Crow 1Crow 2

Only the crows (if they are rooks forgive me – I don’t know the difference)

Crows on crumbling cliff 1

can truly feel safe on them.

As if to prove this statement, one of these took off, and clung precariously to the loose pebbles.

Jogger and beach

Down below a jogger on the beach path

Jogger checking watch

checked her watch without breaking her stride.

Ponies on road 1Ponies on road 2

As we travelled inland, ponies periodically exercised their right to ownership of the roads.

Sunset 1Sunset in wing mirrorSunset 2

Sunset smiled over Roger Penny Way on our return.

Later, The Raj in Old Milton provided our takeaway meal with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the malbec.

 

Lacking A Certain Ambience

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Aaron building compost bins 1Aaron building compost bins 2

Aaron needed a few more boards for the front of his compost bins. I therefore accompanied him this morning to Mole Country Stores (known as Scats because that is what they used to be) to buy them. These make removable slats for ease of accessing the mature soil. As is customary, our friend, of AP Maintenance, also built the fence against which they stand. I made prints of these images for the portfolio he is building up.

SkylineCloudscape 1

Although the day started with fine weather, the afternoon grew more and more overcast.

Footrot Cottage

As we drove through East End we discovered that the house in Rowes Lane with the most unappetising name, that has been up for sale for a while, seems to have found a courageous buyer. Either that, or the vendor has given up.

Cloudscape 2Trees and clouds

As we approached The Drift Inn in ‘the heart of the forest’ the sun made sporadic appearances.

Moorland

Moorland stretched into the distance on the opposite side of Beaulieu Road.

The Drift Inn

This establishment describes itself as being a family and dog friendly traditional pub.

Dog Bar

Family and dog friendly it is.

Logs

The rest is open to interpretation. Real log fires are described on the website. Real logs were piled up behind a net

Gas fire

beside the fireplace

Don't throw rubbish

which bore this notice.

The proprietors had perhaps striven for a certain ambience that was rather lacking.

The beer was OK.

Sunset 1

After filling up with petrol at New Milton’s Tesco’s we continued in search of a sunset at Barton on Sea. A little early for that,

Sunset 2

we found one over Roger Cobb’s farm in Downton Lane.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s chicken breasts wrapped in bacon on a bed of sautéed mushrooms, peppers, and onions, served with her savoury vegetable rice. I drank Casillero del Diablo cabernet sauvignon 2016.