Communing With Ponies

Today we ventured out. Firstly, I made my way down the garden to admire Aaron’s work of yesterday. Perusal of the last two photographs featured on 26th June last year show what this now bare patch looked like then. For the rest of that summer I cleared most of what was growing there, and invading from next door. Anyone who has followed my summer posts will know what a task this was.Rose garden blank 1Rose garden blnk 2

The piles of concrete and bricks seen in those two pictures show how much of this material I had dug out, not to mention the bath. The job still required completion, and I’d had enough, which is why I had engaged Aaron Parris of A.P. Maintenance. Aaron charges a very reasonably hourly rate, and works thoroughly throughout, having to be encouraged to take tea breaks. We now have a blank canvas on which to plan our rose garden.

Our next morning outing was by car. Jackie drove us around the Northern parts of the forest. Even driving through the splendid heathlands and the winding treelined roads in gorgeous sunshine I felt rather dozy, until I stepped out for a while to commune with a group of basking New Forest ponies whose somnolence made me feel as if I were positively frisky. Mostly, these animals were undisturbed by my presence. One grey, however, stirred itself enough to turn and see whether was anything to eat in my camera.Ponies by roadsidePonies among treesDappled grey poniesPonies' shadowsPonies' legsPony's eye 1Pony's eye 2White ponyPony through trees

The shadows cast by this wonderful wintry light which sharpened the landscape were just what the doctor would have ordered for lifting the spirits, had he or she been asked. Many people have found swimming with dolphins to be soothingly curative for those suffering from depression. Unless you are unfortunate enough to be afraid of these silent ponies, I can recommend communing with these gentle creatures as a peaceful experience.

We dined this evening on chicken Kiev, chips, and baked beans, followed by Bakewell tart and custard.

This morning’s outing was initiated by Jackie, and required a certain amount of willpower. This evening, however, I really felt I was on the mend, and was grateful we had made the effort.



The Dappled Trunk

This morning I could no longer put off changing the lightbulbs bought yesterday. The picture light which I can reach with the aid of our small stepladder was done then. Three more at ceiling height were a different proposition.

Derrick carrying stepladderDerrick with stepladder in hallA major task ensued, not the least for the photographer who had to get down on the floor whilst I was scaling the ladder. But first things first. The larger ladder, once discovered in the hall of the other side of the house where reside the unreachable electricity meters, had to be obtained, carried across the front of the building, and negotiated into our flat and through the hall corridor.

Derrick changing spotlight in bayDerrick changing kitchen spotlightThen came the scary bit. The spots in the bay and the kitchen are the highest, but the bayonet fitting bulb in the sitting room is actually the most daunting. This is because two hands are required. The first time I replaced this one the old article was very stiff and tended to throw me off balance when it yielded. Derrick changing sitting room lightbulbThat was managed from the platform of our smaller ladder. No way was I trying that again.

There is a lot of internal illumination in our flat, and it tends to fail with some regularity. So you see, if, to quote someone I once met, ‘all I ever [did] around here [was] change lightbulbs’, I’d be kept quite busy.

Before a salad lunch based on a Ferndene Farm shop pork pie, I walked through the underpass and along Malwood Farm and the stream. I had intended to cross the sandbagged ford, but this proved to be far too muddy, so I carried on along the watercourse, eventually returning the way I had come.

Blocked pathFallen tree blocking pathFallen treesFallen treeSun through shattered treeThe recent terrible arboreal toll necessitated searching out new footpaths not blocked by fallen trees.

It has been reported that three main areas of The New Forest have lost 300 memorable trees. If all we see around us have not been included the losses must be considerably greater.

Mossy rootsMalwood streamTradition has it that in England the  month of March ‘comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb’. This March has come in like a lamb. The lion’s visit was in February.

This is why I ventured this way today. Apart from the ford mentioned above the terrain is less boggy and the stream not so full as often.

Sun and trees reflectedSunlight finds its way through the deciduous trees and sparkles in the tinkling water, dappling the surfaces around. My feet rustled the dried leaves. A helicopter chugged overhead. The farm dogs barked. A flapping in some bushes was followed by the splendid flash of a male pheasant as it flew off at my approach.

Pony track

Ponies, as always, have found their way past obstacles.

Dappled trunkOne particular trunk took me back to the early 1970s. Page 13 of Becky’s Book features a similar dappled effect on a tree and the fence beside it. I was inspired to make this drawing when gazing out of a children’s home window during a child care review. I was of course fully concentrating on the matter in hand, but took the memory home with me.

Later in the afternoon, idling on my laptop, I looked up Bing images for Castle Malwood Lodge. To my amazement, I discovered that 63, the vast majority of the photographs shown, were taken from my WordPress posts. They were of the house and garden; of Minstead and the forest around; of Elizabeth’s house in West End; even shots from the plane on the way back from Sigoules. Google’s tally was rather less, but it did include a photograph of Regent Street lights from fifty years ago, and Becky’s profile picture from her childhood. Jackie drew up a different Google set which also included my mug shot.

Yesterday’s liver and bacon casserole (recipe) provided our dinner this evening. A casserole surely does improve the next day. Even the Bergerac after three days was unblemished.

The Forest Is Not Immune

Last night I began reading The Folio Society’s ‘The Best of the Raconteurs’.

Glass window displayToday’s advent calendar picture is of a display in the window of a shop that I cannot remember.  Again taken in December 1963 it was probably in Regent Street.  The cabinet containing the various vitreous containers, in which the glass madonna is more or less centrally placed, was bordered with holly which I removed for composition’s sake.

This morning further work was undertaken by Knight Enterprises on cards, four of which were for family December birthdays.  This afternoon I walked beneath dismal drizzle down to the postbox and back.

FlytippingFor several days now, Jackie’s passage along Upper Drive has been impeded by heaps of garden refuse.  I rather hoped that someone else would move it.  Alas, in this I was disappointed, so I tackled it on my return from sending off the cards.  Someone had driven a heavy enough truck to have gouged the grass and tipped its contents mostly onto the tarmac.  I had intended to kick all the rubbish into touch, but the branches of trees, the cuttings from aged rose stems, the massy holly and ivy, were so enmeshed that this was not possible.  I had to use my hands to extract from the piles and throw into the forest greenery that tended to be rather prickly.  It will no doubt, in its own good time, merge with its surroundings.  On the other hand, if we have another severe winter, the animals will see to it.  The last dump of detritus on this spot was more builder’s junk, and was removed by the Council services within a couple of days.  The New Forest is, we have discovered, not immune from flytipping.

Later this evening Mo and John dropped in and collected my obsolete iMac, and a huge bag of DVDs to play on it, to take to Sigoules for me when they go back to France next week.  It was good to see them.

Chicken jalfrezi

Dinner this evening was Jackie’s juicy and spicy chicken jalfrezi, her savoury rice which defies labelling, and brilliant cauliflower bhaji.  I don’t have a thousand words, so the photo must paint the picture.  I finished the Cliente Rojo.

A Gift From Norway

We drove early this morning to Ringwood for a bit more shopping, then went on to visit Helen and Bill in Poulner, after which we meandered around the northern forest villages seeking a particular photographic subject for a card idea that Jackie had.  We returned home along Roger Penny Way.

Leaves of plane tree

Tree LineOakThe plane trees around Ringwood car park are now mostly devoid of leaves, although many of the forest trees remain festooned with persistent clingers. Along Roger Penny Way, the rounded shapes of the oaks and beeches with their golden foliage are set off nicely by the pointed evergreen pines behind them.  The gnarled and arthritic limbs of the oaks are beginning to reveal themselves.

Ponies, cattle, and donkeys were all motionless soon after midday.  All these roamers seem to be growing winter coats.  The equine varieties stood stock still, whereas the bovines lay basking in the sunshine glinting on their variously coloured ear tags.Cattle basking

Helicopter trioHigh above the fields and chimney pots of Ibsley, a trio of helicopters, possibly military, glided silently across the skies.  As Jackie brought the car to a standstill alongside someone’s house, and I leapt out to photograph the airborne vehicles, I rather alarmed a woman who stood quizzically shielding her eyes.  I therefore felt obliged to explain what I was doing, by which time I had all but missed the shot.

Back in Minstead, where the horses of the Freshwater Stud were now wearing man made winter coats, we found the picture we had been looking for all along. Freshwater stud This afternoon I worked on the prints required.

Yesterday, the Christmas season officially opened in Central London with the switching on of the lights to the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree.  Our annual gift from the people of Norway in recognition of Britain’s help during World War Two, the tree has been a feature of the capital since 1947.  This is how I, with my Kodak Retinette 1b, recorded the scene fifty years ago:

Trafalgar Square 12.63

The rows of people to the left of the picture are carol singers.  Different groups still perform nightly carols raising funds for various charities.

This evening we dined at The Family House Chinese restaurant in Totton, on the excellent buffet meal.  Although called a buffet this is rather different in that for £18 a head you do have all you can eat, but you actually select from a normal full menu , and are given all the time you need with breaks in between.  If you over-order and cannot eat it all you pay normal prices for the uneaten portions.  It seems to work rather well.  Once again we remarked on the friendliness of the atmosphere, with the staff seeming to be on very good terms with all the customers.  I always eat the decorative chillis and cucumber.  When taking our first set of empty plates away, the waiter, seeing that I hadn’t eaten the lemon slice, from which I had at least squeezed the juice, suggested he should put it on my bill (as an uneaten portion).  With our meal Jackie and I both drank T’sing Tao beer.

Hansel’s Trail

The dismal drizzle descending, as I dragged myself from my laptop and set off for the two underpasses walk, soon developed into a steady stream, only slightly abated by the leaves on the still clad trees upon which it spattered.

Today I began from the Malwood Farm end.  My nostrils picked up the scent of a bonfire as I passed the farm.  Bonfire smokeI was drawn to it.  Lingering longingly, struggling to summon the determination to continue through the soggy forest, I thought of my Facebook friend June.  It was she who had the perspicacity to question my sanity when she realised that I went ‘out each day regardless of the weather’.  I wondered whether she had a point.  After all, the peaty scent of a glass of Talisker would have been rather preferable to that of woodsmoke.

I assume the board placed against the wire fence was to prevent sparks setting the forest alight, not to block off the smoke, like the board Mike Kindred fabricated for the log fire in the sitting room at Sigoules.  Mind you, there was about as much chance of the forest being set on fire today as there was of stopping an uncapped chimney from blowing smoke into the house.

Fallen treeThe tracks through the forest are now more disrupted.Muddy pitholes  There are more fallen branches and more sucking mud patches.  The pony pits in the clayey parts are beginning to fill with ochre coloured water,Stream and the rivulets are filling up again. Elsewhere the clay is still firm, rendering it similar enough to that fired and formed into London concourses to warrant signs warning that ‘during wet weather floors may be slippery underfoot’.

I set off with such confidence that I know some of you will find it difficult to believe that I perpetrated a slight navigation error.  How was it that, instead of emerging opposite the Sir Walter Tyrrell I came face to face with the fence around the farm that I had skirted so recently?  Please don’t ask.  ‘Blow this for a game of soldiers’, Sandbagged fordI thought, and headed back along the fence to the sandbagged ford which is now serving its intended purpose. Miraculously, I made the correct left turn.

Next time I will emulate Hansel, making sure to use white pebbles rather than breadcrumbs.  Any of my readers unfamiliar with the Grimms’ folk tale of Hansel and Gretel will be able to find it on Google, but its relevance for my difficulties in successfully reaching Sir Walter, is that first pebbles, then bread, were used by the boy to lay a trail to help him and his sister find their way back.

This afternoon I boxed up a collection of DVDs for Mo and John to transport, with my obsolete iMac, to rue St Jacques.  They are going to join the builders there and use the place as a base from which to seek their own French home.

Our two new friends dined with us this evening on Jackie’s French Onion soup; British roast chicken with Italian mushroom risotto and salad; followed by English Bread and Butter pudding, all cooked, as always, to perfection.  We began with Antoine de Clevecy Champagne brought by our guests, and then served Maison des Papes Chateuneuf du Pape 2011.  Jackie was disappointed that we didn’t have any English wine, but she enjoyed her German Liebfraumilch 2012.  We had a most enjoyable evening.

New Forest Safari

Today was very warm.  The morning 13.5 tog cloud duvet of slate grey tinged with pigeon-pink slowly made way for a clear lapis lazuli sky that ultimately faded to a blue-rinse tint above a salmon-pink horizon.

It was a perfect day for a drive through the glorious New Forest on a prospective abode safari.  After delivering some prints and cards to Elizabeth for the forthcoming weekend’s exhibition, that is how Jackie and I spent the afternoon.  Dappled sunlight was all around us.  Ponies, cattle, pigs, and donkeys foraged as if to stock up for the winter.  The rounded bellies will, we know, by next spring, be furrowed by the protruding ribs.

We covered the four corners of the forest as we examined the outside of properties in Exbury, Burton, and Bransgore.

Magnolia Cottage

First was Magnolia Cottage in Exbury, little more than a hamlet on the road to Lepe which featured on 14th February. Magnolia Cottage garden The cottage was an interesting, apparently former estate, semi with a garden that seemed to back onto a gated field.Petrol pump On a lane in the heart of the forest, the location was superb.  Exbury’s village shop was now residential accommodation.  A pair of ancient petrol pumps still stood where there must have been a garage around the middle of the last century.  One where a staff member would fill your tank and take your cash in person.

Pigeon on thatched roofThe decoy bird perched on the top of the thatch of The Old Farmhouse in Burton turned out to be a real live pigeon, with a breast of the aforementioned pink hue.  This was our next visit.  There was a lot of house for your money here, but it was on a busy road, and rather hemmed in by new buildings.  It had the bonus of a bus stop boasting an hourly service right outside the door.  Perhaps new owners would need to feed the pigeon in recognition of its services in deterring prospective thatch thieves. The Old Farmhouse That would be an additional expense to be taken into consideration.

Pinetree Cottage location

After Burton, we set off East to Bransgore, where the location of Pinetree Cottage answered the question as to way this was comparatively affordable. Pinetree Cottage Another splendid looking thatched residence, it is situated on a very busy corner opposite The Crown public house.  Neither of these factors would particularly put us off.  It looks a contender.

Our itinerary complete, and it not being quite opening time for Curry Garden in Ringwood, we repaired to The renowned London Tavern in Poulner where we sampled Ringwood Best and Kronenburg while we waited. The London Tavern Jackie impressed the locals by her knowledge of Mrs Brown’s Boys.

Curry Garden

Finally we enjoyed the usual top quality of the Curry Garden meals; a discussion with the manager about Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Indian cooking; and Kingfisher beer.  By the time we were travelling back along the A31, the forest trees were silhouetted against the still cloudless sky.

The Soho Festival

In The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain this morning I finished reading Paul Langford’s ‘The Eighteenth Century’, and progressed to begin ‘Revolution and the Rule of Law’ by Christopher Harvie.

It was a beautiful balmy day as I walked the two fords loop peaking at Forest Road. Radio mast Sheep grazed against the backdrop of a mast that is the reason we are so fortunate with internet and mobile phone signals where we live.  An uninterrupted reception is rare in the New Forest.  I was later to appreciate just how lucky we are.

Horses through gap in hedge

Through a gap in the hedge on Furzey Gardens road could be seen a horse favoured with a fly sheet.  Perhaps its uncovered companion stayed close for shelter from the pestilential insects.

As I Ieft the first ford and was about to veer left towards Newtown, I fell in with a tall, elegant, lively, and attractive South African woman named Yolanda, and her elderly dog, Trigger.  She was making her way to her place of employment at the far end of the bridle path.  I chose to change my route and accompany her.  Yolanda is a freelance live-in companion for elderly people.  We naturally spoke about Social Work.  She has no signal where she is living.

A golden labrador that now ignores my passing, barked with intent through gaps in its fencing.  It clearly wasn’t Trigger happy.  Being hard of hearing, Yolanda’s old boy quietly ignored the noisy young whipper-snapper.

I was delighted to note the name of the house in which my conversationalist was working.  Two days ago, a district nurse, driving up and down Running Hill, had asked me if I knew Skymer.  She was the person I had been unable to direct on that day, and was a long way from her goal.  SkymersThere, today, at the entrance to the splendid house at which we had stopped, was the sign, Skymers.  Yolanda confirmed that the nurse had indeed arrived, but it had taken her a long time to find the place.

To cap this I was able to achieve 100% success rate in my traffic directing role.  As two separate drivers waited their turn for my information, one for Tom’s Lane and the other for Furzey Gardens, the man who had kindly deferred to an elderly woman, said, with a smile: ‘You’ve got a queue’.

It was not until I worked on the Ondekoza photographs yesterday that I realised the large Romeo and Juliettas for the Soho Festival cigar smoking contest had coincidentally been provided by a supplier called Knight.  The idea was that you smoked one of these lengthy monsters for as long as you could without losing the ash.  When I entered in 1977, I actually had the longest ash, but mine was bent. Derrick cigar smoking competition 1976 I came second to a woman whose was straight.  You can imagine the ribaldry that provoked.

When we lived in Horse and Dolphin Yard during the 1970s this was a new and popular event, and, held in September usually enjoyed perfect weather. Punch & Judy audience, Soho Festival, 9.76 (1) A Punch and Judy show in 1976 gave entertainment for all ages. Beccy, Soho Festival 9.76 (3) copyOne photograph I took of the audience featured on the cover of the Social Care Association’s monthly magazine.  Becky, on this occasion, was distracted from the puppets by the sight of my lens.  A little boy nearby, was engaged in that familiar comforting exercise of thumb-sucking combined with ear-twiddling.  Another had lost one of his front incisors.

The first family member to have the courage to enter a spaghetti eating competition was Michael.

Michael, spaghetti eating, Soho Festival 9.75 copyAs the dry spaghetti was ladled onto his plate, he looked as if he was about to bite off more that he could chew.  The thin coating of tomato sauce, looking no more appetising than ketchup, didn’t seem to do much to improve the digestion. Michael, spaghetti eating, Soho Festival 9.75 (2) copy My son soon got stuck in.  He and one of his rivals seemed to think the nearer the dish they got, the better their chances.

Old man.001

An elderly gentleman, eating at a leisurely pace, had probably just come along for his dinner.

The 39th Soho Festival is to be held this September.  Details can be obtained from the Soho Society at 55 Dean St., W1.

For my evening meal I enjoyed Jackie’s delicious chicken curry, savoury rice, and samosas so much that I paid scant attention to the last of the Terre de Galets which was meant to accompany it.