Raindrops

It was a shame that we were only due sunshine and lack of rain this morning, because I needed to be at home for the Openreach engineer engaged by BT. I won’t dwell on this, but, although the man turned up on time the problem is not resolved. It didn’t help that he hadn’t been told what Friday’s engineer had done and that he had been sent for an installation rather than a repair. Another technician is to attend tomorrow.

I did manage to wander round the garden before heavy rain set in for the afternoon.

We have numerous hellebores;

a prolific variety of camellias;

iris reticulatas;

and snowdrops coming into bloom throughout.

One of the occupants of the Dragon Bed cradles her egg;

another has recovered well after Aaron’s spinal surgery.

After lunch, with raindrops splattering on the roof of the car and slaloming down the windscreen, we took a drive into the forest.

The watery Black Lane, in the murk, lived up to its name.

Many of our roads are now irrigated by overflowing ditches and waterlogged fields.

Braggers Lane, with its

rippling reflective bubbling pools stretching alongside, is a good example.

 

Despite the banked verges, the fields are very generous with their excess water.

Woodland is a little meaner.

A group of horses, some wearing waterproof rugs, simply tolerated the downfall.

Further along, on Thatchers Lane, fallen. lichen-coated branches, recently at home on dry land, are reflected in their own pools. Drinks cans now bob beside them.

Long haired goats foraged in the grass alongside Fish Street. One inquisitive creature raised its head briefly before getting on with its late lunch.

Sheep sheltering on London Lane wondered why I was standing there getting wet.

At Avon thatchers seemed to have called it a day. It seemed a good idea, so we set off for home.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s nicely matured sausage casserole; crisp roast potatoes; firm Brussels sprouts; and tricolour carrots with which I finished the Malbec.

 

 

 

Rockford End

This morning I made my final cut of the Everton Festival Photographic Competition with the subject of The New Forest.

I am grateful to all those of you who contributed to the debate about my submissions. The ‘Happy Thatchers’ was a clear favourite. Although they were very popular I have reluctantly excluded those of sunbeams through the trees. This is because, in reality, they could have been photographed anywhere. For the same reason, the deer with the crow on its nose had to go. People may be surprised at the rank outsider which made it to the finish. I had removed ‘A Vantage Point’, namely the photographers on the hill, on the same grounds, and ultimately persuaded myself to reinstate this image because, after all, they were photographers, and there was a lot of gorse in the foreground.

I have made A4 prints of ‘Happy Thatchers’; ‘Drinking In The Gorse’; and ‘The Watersplash’.

‘A Huddle’; ‘Hedge Trimming’; and ‘A Vantage Point’, required in digital form, have been despatched in an e-mail.

Later this afternoon Jackie drove me to Everton Post Office where I delivered the prints, and on into the forest.

I disembarked at Wilverley in order to photograph the landscape. Jackie made the first photograph, then focussed on me after I had crossed the road for a closer vantage point.

She even captured me aiming at the

Ryanair plane flying overhead.

From this very narrow, winding, unnamed lane at Rockford End, I could look down on

a horse in a field surrounded by his entourage of crows and geese;

and a bevy of doves pinpointing a thatched roof.

Back at home this evening we dined on fillet steak – mine perfectly medium/rare and Jackie’s well done; creamy mashed potato; succulent ratatouille; and crunchy carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden while I, sadly, finished the Garnacha Syrah.

Fill Your Boots

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. REPEAT IF REQUIRED

Early this morning Jackie drove me to New Hall Hospital for a Pre-Admission Clinical appointment. This was a most thorough and efficient physical check involving all the usual blood tests, etc., including an ECG. I seem to have passed. There followed various questionnaires for which Jackie was invited to participate. Next, we were introduced to the Head Physiotherapist who explained what we were to expect before and after surgery. I was, incidentally told that I was “a lucky man” in my allocated surgeon.

The off-white tarpaulin covering the skies developed a leak in the afternoon, so I was fortunate in managing to produce a few photographs before lunch.

Rape fields

On the road through Salisbury’s Downton, fields of oil seed rape blazed in the murk.

Cattle

A cluster of white-faced cattle huddled in the corner of a field

Cattle

beribboned by tributaries of the River Avon near the mill at Woodgreen. (See Paol Soren’s comment below for important information about these creatures)

Thatched roof

Having been attracted by the recently patched thatched roof of

Thatched roof

Surma Valley Indian restaurant at Burgate,

Surma Valley restaurant

we just had to have lunch in this 16th century building set in 3/4 of an acre of grounds. We were not disappointed. Service was friendly and efficient and the food was first rate. Jackie enjoyed her sheek kebab starter followed by prawn buna and aromatic pilau rice; as I did my mulligatawny soup, lamb tikka gowchi, and special egg rice. We both drank Kingfisher.

Shoes

We have an expression, “fill your boots”, originating from early naval times, when a mug was called a boot and this was an encouragement to get quite drunk. Now we use it to mean eat so much that your boots are also full. We didn’t exactly do that, but Jackie brought some of hers home in a doggy bag for this evening. An earlier visitor to the restaurant avoided doing so by leaving his boots outside.

My laptop died some time ago. Later this afternoon we collected a replacement – a MacBook – from Peacock computers and I did my head in trying to load all my various accounts, like this one, onto it.

 

.

An Early Post Box

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. REPEAT IF REQUIRED.

The Dragon Bed sign

A couple of days ago Jackie made a new sign for The Dragon Bed, and left a photograph on my camera.

Paul and Margery made a brief visit at lunchtime in order to deliver a birthday present ordered from their last exhibition. Both were looking in fine fettle.

Afterwards, Jackie drove us around the forest.

HeatherHeathland floor

Like many other plants this year, the heather seemed to be blooming early.

Ponies and heather 1Heather and poniesPonies and heather 2

Not that the ponies noticed.

Ponies and heather 3

They just kept their eyes on the grass.

Ladywell 1

On the outskirts of Burley we took a pot-holed drive down Tyrell’s Lane,

Ladywell 2

where I was struck by the topiary fronting a house called Ladywell. This reflected the thatched roofing

Peacock thatch

which bears a peacock motif on top.

Gunnera

Next door, Tyrell’s Way’s garden sports a magnificent gunnera.

Sheep

As I have occasionally mentioned, sheep are inquisitive creatures. This one in a field at the end of Tyrell’s drive, even lifted its head from its grazing at my approach.

Sheep models

This was in stark contrast to the low maintenance ovine mother and child occupying a garden in Furzley, who completely ignored me.

Shetland pony 1Shetland pony 2

Stony Cross Plain, just north of the A31, seems to be the province of Shetland ponies,

Shetland pony 3

one of which thought that a discarded tissue was not to be sniffed at.

Shetland pony foal 2

A recumbent foal

Shetland pony foal

occasionally stirred itself to stand. This creature has become accustomed to flies,

Pony and foal 1

which is more than can be said for its younger cousin at Nomansland, still skipping in confusion at the irritation.

Jackie at Powder Mill post box

A visit to Eyeworth Pond revealed nothing of interest, except for this post box near the Royal Oak, that we had not noticed before. Shultze gunpowder factory operated near the pond from the 1860s until the early 20th century. This receptacle was erected to make the postman’s life easier, in the days before delivery vans. It was recently restored by the Forestry Commission.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s roast chicken, savoury rice, breaded mushrooms, tempura vegetables, and salad. She drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the cabernet sauvignon/tempranillo.

Snaffled By A Swan

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE. REPEAT IF REQUIRED.

Playing Bookworm with Malachi commenced at 6.30 a.m. today. Thus the morning was whiled away.

This afternoon Jackie drove me and the children to Hatchet Pond to feed the birds on prawn crackers.

Rain on windscreen

We just had time to disembark from the car before the sky darkened, severe winds blew, and rain pelted down. This was the view we had of the lake through the windscreen.

Gulls

The rain eased up a bit and the black-headed gulls fought against the gusts.

Malachi and Orlaith feeding birds 1Malachi and Orlaith feeding birds 2

Malachi and Orlaith feeding birds 3Malachi and Orlaith feeding birds 4Malachi and Orlaith feeding birds 6

Soon the children could attempt to feed the gulls and the ducks. This was made somewhat difficult by the wind tossing their offerings this way and that.

Gull grabbing prawn cracker

Only the sharpest birds managed to catch a cracker.

Swan and cygnets

Eventually the sun returned and a stately swan steered her cygnets sailing across the now smoother surface of the water.

Swans, cygnets, gulls, ducks 1

She was set on joining her cob who had gone ahead at the sight of a gentleman who now felt it safe enough to brave the elements and feed them.

Swans, cygnets, gulls, ducks 3

Father swan had his eye on a large slice of bread bobbing in the water.

Swans, cygnets, gulls, ducks 4Swans, cygnets, gulls, ducks 5

Thrusting all competition aside he snaffled the bread, ready to distribute it among his offspring.

Thatched roof 1Thatched roof 3Thatched roof 2

Returning via East End, we admired the completed work of New Forest Master Thatchers.

This evening we all dined on Mr Pink’s fish and chips, followed by vanilla ice cream. Holly and I drank Ring Bolt Margaret River cabernet sauvignon 2014, and Sam drank Guinness.

A Christmas Rehearsal

On a dull, blustery, yet mild, morning I took a stroll along Hordle Lane to Apple Court House and back. Bordering the drive to the house bergenia and primulas are blooming, on this, our shortest day of the year.BergeniaPrimulasThatched roofOwl decoy

A motionless long-eared owl, no doubt on the lookout for small mammals, perches atop the newly, beautifully, thatched roof of a house on which Hallmark builders have been working for a week or so. Thatching is one of the country crafts still thriving in England. It is the practise of builders to place a decoy, usually of the avian variety, in order to deter other birds from grubbing around for insects, or nicking material for their nests.

Doing a little Googling in a rather unsuccessful attempt to check my facts, I found, which is not unusual, one of my own photographs on an information site. Just as my introduction to the owl above is one of my sad little jokes, so was that picture. Instead of describing a genuine decoy as a live creature, I likened a living pigeon to a thatcher’s creation.

Another of my photos, also used, portrays the skeletons of decoy ducks that have themselves lost their plumage to scavengers. I wonder how long it will take for my owl to grace a twitcher’s website. My Lesser Antillean Bullfinch does, after all, with my permission, grace Fatbirder’s Barbados page.

This afternoon we drove to Helen and Bill’s home in Poulner for a Christmas dinner with them and Shelley and Ron. We enjoyed a superb roast venison meal with roast potatoes and parsnips; and a full range of vegetables cooked by Helen. The gravy was delicious. Iced Christmas pudding and sherry trifle were the sweets, followed by cheese and biscuits, coffee and mints. My choice from the available beverages was a very good malbec. Apparently venison was, in earlier times, a traditional Christmas roast. In Dickens’s time, as described in ‘A Christmas Carol’,  goose was the festive meat. One topic of our conversation centred on the even earlier, Tudor, practice of stuffing smaller birds inside larger ones. A swan, we believed, would contain a goose, which held a chicken, into which a duck would be pressed, and that in turn would house a quail; thus forming something like a set of culinary Russian dolls. Obviously only the very rich could afford such a banquet.

An exchange of presents, thus forming a Christmas rehearsal, took place afterwards. As was normal in the Rivett household in which the sisters had grown up, Helen followed their father’s practice of providing a large plastic bag for ‘herk’. This was a word he had coined for discarded wrapping paper that otherwise would have been flung excitedly to all corners of the living room.

Later, we took a break in our session of The Name Game, to squeeze in tea or more coffee and delicious homemade mince pies and/or shortbread. In this game one person represents a character that may or may not be human, real, or fictional. The others, within 20 questions, each of which must be answerable by ‘yes’ or ‘no’, must guess the identity. I might, when I was Arsene Wenger, not have misled my questioners had I known his true nationality. But they didn’t hold it against me. This was fun, as was the whole event.

Water was the only sustenance required when Jackie and I returned home.

P.S. Later this evening, Jackie did some further Googling on the subject of the owl, There doesn’t seem to be any real consensus on the term or the purpose of what I have called ‘decoys’, although my term is probably incorrect. The most consistent name is ‘finials’, and they could simply be decoration serving as a signature of the thatcher. Whilst ‘decoy’ may be incorrect I do like the deterrent idea. Here is the text of Jackie’s observations:

Not called decoys by thatchers (decoy ducks are used by hunters I believe) but known as straw finials, they are a west country tradition that came from decorating hay stacks and corn stacks, used on roofs since at least the 17th Cent, I found an East Anglian thatcher who advertises that altho’ straw finials are a west country tradition he is willing to incorporate them if the costumer should desire it!

P.P.S. Barrie Haynes has sent me an equally enlightening comment: Most surprised to see a thatcher has placed an owl on a roof as when I was a child, many of the old New Forest people (my mother was a ‘Cooke’ from Emerydown) thought owls anywhere near the house brought bad luck!