It Has To Be Seen To Be Believed

Here are some of the fruits of Jackie’s recent and past creative labours in the garden: The Old Post House box

Helen and Bill gave us this box for Christmas. It has now been filled with plants and placed  on the wall surrounding the recently converted compost heap, providing a signal to visitors that they have come up the correct back drive. These concrete blocks are some of those I dug out of the kitchen garden last year.

Planting barrier

Where there was a ramshackle, fairly useless, cobbled, fence today’s Birthday Girl has produced a natural barrier. All that remains is for Aaron to finish paving the projected rose garden, and consequently removing the bag of sand and stack of bricks. I did help bag up the rubble, and moved remaining rocks and concrete blocks to other parts of the garden, where Jackie reinforced border edges and laid stepping stones across the beds with them.


Somewhat flattened and spattered by the battering of yesterday’s gales, this large blue clematis was such a weedy little thing last year that we incorrectly identified it. It has been lovingly fed and nurtured through the winter. Still not sure of its identity, we know that its splendid sepals must belong to a different variety.


We have hanging baskets wherever a hook can be hitched. These marigolds swing from the eucalyptus tree. At least, they do today. Features tend to be moved around, and sometimes I only spot this when I bang my head on them.

Fly on rose

This afternoon a fly engaged in mountaineering atop a new deep pink climber heavily pruned and retrained last autumn;

Bee on erigeron Sea Breeze

and a gargantuan humble bee, the pollen dusting adding the last straw to prevent a standing take-off, tumbled to the ground as Jackie carefully flicked the slug bait off the recently planted erigeron Sea Breeze, on which the creature was becoming intoxicated. The insect lumbered off, rather like Eric the pheasant. The bait, by the way, is of the type unharmful to birds.

This afternoon we dumped several bags of rubble into the Efford Recycling Centre.

With 50 m.p.h. winds forecast overnight, Jackie toured the garden taking down and sheltering her hanging baskets. Goodness knows where the above marigolds will be found tomorrow.

This evening we dined at The Plough in Tiptoe, where we found the usual efficient, friendly service, and superb, plentiful food. Jackie’s choice was the half rack of ribs. I once had the whole rack and had as much trouble managing to eat it all as I had with today’s mixed grill.Mixed grill

I have featured this feast before, and make no apology for photographing it again, because it has to be seen to be believed. However, because this huge plate is piled high, I bet you can’t list everything on it. Don’t be deceived by the steak knife. It is itself of proportions that would have suited Jim Bowie.  Jackie enjoyed the pub’s legendary creme brûlée. I was so full I could not manage a sweet. Jackie drank Becks. My choice of beverage was Doom Bar.

The Day Of The Triffids

Lords and LadiesRed hot pokerYesterday evening, the head gardener put me right on red hot pokers. As she read my post for that day she pointed out that the plants I had erroneously given this term are actually Lords and Ladies, which are the berries of an insignificant variety of arum lily. We have both emerging in the garden. I think I can now tell the difference.
We both spent much of the day gardening. It is a truism that whatever we plan to do on our never ending project is subject to delay through diversion. Thus, when intending to plant out seedlings of sunflowers from seeds my sister in law, Frances, had, along with a magnificent hoe, sent us for a housewarming present, she found herself embarking upon what she termed heavy landscaping. Sunflower seedlingsOval bed brick pathIn building up the soil in front of the pruned prunus, she had discovered that the brick path we had excavated some while back was wider than we had thought. Sunflowers planted, path finishedThe bordering row of bricks had been covered with stone. She moved the tablets back and set them in an upright position; filled the earth triangles with gravel; and planted and watered the sunflowers.
Lonicera hedge far cornerMy task was continuing to do battle with the invasive plants along the path by the neighbouring empty house, in preparation for extending the IKEA wardrobe fence. UnknownAs I did so, carefully avoiding brambles desirous of poking me in the eye, I was grateful that these and the lonicera, privet, and ivy, were neither, like triffids, ambulant, nor, as far as I know, capable of communicating with each other in order to assist in tracking down their prey. I had no wish to emulate Bill Masen, blinded by triffid-juice. Our neighbours’ invading plants certainly stretched out their tendrils and forced them through windows in the ramshackle fence which is our only rampart.Compost cornerBack driveBack drive boundary
Now I have reached the corner occupied by the compost heap, I only have to turn right down the back drive and tackle the even less defined boundary between that and the back of the untended jungle. I am not sure I have the stomach for that this year.
According to Wikipedia, ”The Day of the Triffids’ is a 1951 post-apocalyptic novel about a plague of blindness which befalls the entire world, allowing the rise of an aggressive species of plant. It was written by the English science fiction author John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris, under the pen name John Wyndham. Although Wyndham had already published other novels using other pen-name combinations drawn from his real name, this was the first novel that was published as John Wyndham. It established him as an important writer, and remains his best known novel. The story has been made into the 1962 feature film of the same name, three radio drama series in 1957, 1968 and 2008, and two TV series in 1981 and 2009. In 2003 the novel was listed on the BBC’s survey The Big Read. The protagonist is Bill Masen, a biologist who has made his living working with triffids – tall, venomous carnivorous plants capable of locomotion and communication”.
Early this evening Barrie called in to return my copy of Kilvert’s Diaries, and the three of us had a pleasant chat for a while. Afterwards Jackie and I dined at The Plough Inn, Tiptoe. With my pint of Doom Bar and Jackie’s Becks we enjoyed, as usual, the best pub food we have found since arriving in The New Forest. I managed to finish the mixed grill as Jackie did her half rack of pork ribs. No mean feats. Creme brulee was Jackie’s choice of dessert, mine being lemon meringue pie and ice cream.

Nearly There

The only bathroom cabinet in the house capable of containing anything useful to ablutions was in the downstairs loo, where it was probably superfluous to requirements. It was so positioned that, I have it on good authority, when rising from the lavatory seat one was likely to hit one’s head on the bottom corner. We took it off the wall this morning and replaced it with a mirror.
The rest of the morning was spent on progressing the installation of the garage library. Whilst Jackie built three IKEA Billy bookcases, I carried most of a lifetime’s collection of large Smith’s photograph albums upstairs to a very useful wardrobe cupboard that could have been tailor made for them. There will be more under the piles of Safestore storage boxes. I considered myself fortunate to have discovered as many as I did. This had the benefit of clearing more space to work in the library, but my system is such that I can’t start the process of filling shelves until I find the box marked ‘Novels A’ which has so far proved elusive. This will be the one that contains my copy of Daisy Ashford’s ‘The Young Visiters’.

During my preprandial tour round the garden, I photographed two different tulips, one very delicate in colouring, the other of the deepest red.                                                          

A heavily pruned wisteria lies, at present, beneath the pergola. It will, no doubt, once more festoon the wooden structure.

Furry orange bees are lapping up the ajugas.

Whilst I was wandering about, Jackie made a delicious vegetable soup for lunch.

Afterwards, with minimal help from me, she continued building the bookcases. Today’s tally was seven, leaving two more for completion tomorrow. The library is nearly there.

The Plough Inn at Tiptoe still serves the best pub food in the area. We reminded ourselves of that by dining there this evening. My choice was the fish combo with which I drank Doom Bar. Jackie opted for a half rack of ribs and Peroni to drink.

A Severed Thread

Ants farming blackflyI learned something new this morning.  Some of Jackie’s marigolds are covered in blackfly.  Underneath the next pot is an ants’ nest.  She tells me the ants plant the flies onto the flowers.  The farmed slaves then produce a sugary substance for the industrious insects’ sustenance.

Scented liliesBeautiful scented lilies are now in bloom, blending their aroma with others such as nicotiana and petunias.  I always wondered why we had the phrase ‘smelling like a petunia’ until I was educated by my lady.  Most petunias we see have had the scent bred out of them.  Older varieties have not, and well deserve the description.

NicotianaThe nicotiana, being particularly fragrant at night, are greatly appreciated by our neighbour Vanessa as she walks her dog around our corner before retiring to bed.

Three sunflowers are forcing their way to the top of the pots.  They were not planted by us, so we assume we have the birds to thank.

I have previously mentioned on-line Scrabble, during the playing of which I have found a number of good corresponding friends in all parts of the globe.  One of the most delightful of these is Heather.  The added bonus of this relationship is that she lives near enough for us to meet.  Today Jackie and I joined her and her husband Brian for lunch in The Plough Inn at Tiptoe, where we spent all afternoon without noticing the time.  We all had plentiful Sunday roast meals after excellent starters.  The ladies and I followed this with cremes brûlées.  Various beers and pear cider were drunk.

I have been worrying at something for several weeks now.  It was during my roast lamb dinner that I was at last relieved of my burden.  On 19th June I wrote of my loose wisdom tooth ‘hanging by a thread’.  Today, almost painlessly, it cast off its moorings.  It was easy enough to extract this from my masticated mouthful.

About thirty years ago in my Social Services Area Office in Westminster, I was completely unaware of another extraneous object in a mouthful of food.  In those days I wore hard contact lenses.  Sometimes if I’d got a bit of grit under one I would take it out and put it somewhere safe until I could get to the solution I needed to apply when reinserting it.  The safest place, it seemed to me, was between my bottom lip and the gum of one of my front teeth.  It was a perfect fit.  Like Queen Elizabeth I, I was wont to go on a progress around the building, so that the staff could bask in my presence.  On one of these occasions, I believe it was Tom who gave me a cheese roll.

There was once an old joke that went the rounds.  Maybe it still does.  It went like this: ‘What’s worse than finding a maggot in an apple you are eating?’  The answer was: ‘Finding half a maggot’.  My own personal version could appropriately begin with the question: ‘What’s worse than finding a contact lens in a cheese roll you are eating?’.  I believe my readers will be able to provide the punchline.  I never did find the other half.

After leaving our friends we chose to drive home through Burley.  Passing Clough Lane Jackie remembered she had seen a house there for sale on the internet.  We had a peek through the roses climbing over the front gate and looked it up when we returned to the Lodge. Cherry Tree Cottage Unfortunately it is too small for us.

The Ladybird

It was all go at Castle Malwood Lodge this morning.  Virtually simultaneously we were descended upon by Autoglass to replace the windscreen; by someone else to fix the intercom system, including ours and Steve’s at number eight who had left his keys with us; and by a surveyor to inspect what I think is imperceptible damage to the ceiling as a result of the leak from upstairs.

Dave and GladysDerrickEver chivalrous, I left Jackie to it and went for a walk.  I had decided to investigate a footpath I had noticed behind the cottages at the foot of the hill into Minstead.  It now seemed dry enough to see where it led.  I thought London Minstead likely.  As I reached the turn-off I met Gladys and Dave who confirmed my speculation and said they were going that way to Hazel Hill Farm to buy eggs.  They led the way.

Dave told me that if I walked on further there was a path that led through the forest and came out near our gate.  At the far end of London Minstead a right angled bend takes you to the Cadnam/Lyndhurst road.  To the left of this is a gravel path marked ‘No access. Suter’s Cottage only’.  This was the road to take.  I took it.  It stops at Suter’s Cottage, beyond which is a field containing a mare with her foal. Mare and foal There are many such little families around at the moment.

I walked straight past the idyllic home in its sylvan setting and into the forest.  There was no more footpath.  However, I am now quite good at clambering over fallen trees into the unknown, and avoiding twisting my ankles on the hardened lips of pitted clay cups stamped out by ponies’ hooves.

Fallen tree

Having a pretty good idea of the direction in which I wanted to go, I nevertheless zigzagged all over the place, surmounting the above-mentioned obstacles and living branches, especially of hollies.  My ears told me that somewhere ahead lay the A31, and that there was at least one horse or pony over to my left.  I decided to go as straight as possible.  Then I saw the flash of pink through the trees on the left.  That might be a guide of some sort.  So I diverted left.  The colour came from a plastic bucket in a field.  Two parallel fences and a few trees separated me from the field and the rows of houses beyond that.

Running HillI should probably have ignored the bucket.  Instead, I kept as close to the fences as I could.  A considerable amount of zigzagging was required.  Eventually I espied the back of a cottage that I thought might be Hungerford, and decided to make my way round to that.  It was the very same, and I soon found myself on the shaded tarmac of Running Hill.  Had I not been diverted by the bucket, and had I held my nerve, I would no doubt have left the forest just where Dave had said I would.

It is now so hot that Jackie’s garden pots need to be watered twice a day.Jackie's garden I was to feel great relief that I had taken an early walk as we set off in the car to Totton in the afternoon for a shop at Lidl and Asda.  The chillers in Asda were most welcome.

Some days ago Jackie told me the story of the ladybird.  When Flo was about three years old, Becky had taken her to a garden centre to buy her grannie a present.  She bought one, wrapped it, and full of expectation, handed it over.  ‘Oh, that’s beautiful’, exclaimed Jackie as she opened it.  With her arms thrust behind her, as was her wont, little Flo asked: ‘Is it very, very  beautiful?’.  Of course it was.  The present was a stick to plant among the garden flowers with a plastic ladybird attached to the top.  Jackie told me the story with regret, for the gift was now rather disintegrated, and had been lost in her move.

Yesterday, my birthday, was not long after Jackie’s.  She was given her presents before I had mine.  Flo presented a small parcel.  ‘Is it very, very beautiful?’, asked Jackie.  This delighted our granddaughter, because Jackie then unwrapped a small ladybird on a little stick.


The new creature now has a special place in the garden.

This evening we took Elizabeth to The Plough Inn at Tiptoe.  I ate a wonderful fish pie; Jackie’s choice was cajun chicken; and Elizabeth chose liver and bacon.  All lived up to expectations, as did the crumble and creme brûlée to follow.  Doom Bar and Becks were the draft beers we drank.

A Dog’s Life

After opening a range of presents this, my seventy first birthday, morning I went on a long walk with Matthew and Oddie.  Elizabeth and Louisa at different points telephoned with greetings, so I was a little distracted from guiding Matthew on the walk.  The result was that we walked up to Stoney Cross where a gentleman asked for directions to Emery Down.  Not being exactly sure whether he could drive to Forest Road without going onto the A31, and subsequently finding he couldn’t, I decided we would try to find a route that I felt sure must exist.  Walking through three five-barred gates and passing directly in front of Little Chef, we did indeed find the way, and walked along the road to Lyndhurst before turning left onto the bridleway which joined the bridle path with which I am familiar; then on down to the first ford and back to the bottle bank by Minstead Hall.

Meadow by A31There are lovely meadow flowers blooming alongside the A31 in the vicinity of Little Chef.  Another driver, seeking directions to that eating place went on ahead of us along the rough tracks through the gateways.  He and his teenaged passengers had been decanted into the restaurant by the time we arrived there.

It was along Forest Road that our brave little Oddie began to remind us that he is the equivalent in dog years of a 98 year old human.  He flagged a bit, and was clearly thirsty. Oddie drinking from pool So was I actually, but I wasn’t going to drink the  water I led him to.  If desperate, I might have tried the clear water from the ford for which I was aiming, but certainly not the muddy, midge spawning pool we came across en route.  Oddie was happy though.  And, in the ford, he had a second supply.

Matthew carrying OddieMatthew had to carry him pretty much the rest of the way, otherwise watching him limping stiffly along was much too painful.  This reminded me of a dog at the other end of life also struggling on the roads.  Like Oddie, our Newark pet, Paddy, was also a rescue dog.  Paddy, ostensibly Sam’s collie/labrador cross, was really Jessica’s familiar.  She was rescued from the rescue centre’s necessary cull of puppies not chosen for adoption, by the family selection committee.  When she was just a few weeks old, we took her for a walk in Stapleford Woods.  After a while she began whimpering and we realised that her baby paws had not been toughened enough for tarmac.

When we eventually arrived at the bottle bank today we should have had another eighteen minutes or so to go.  However, I knew Jackie planned a drive down to this refuse dump; Oddie couldn’t walk any more; Matthew was a bit tired of carrying him;  I, of course, was fighting fit and raring to go, but thinking it might be quite nice for the others to have a lift back in the car, I rang Jackie and suggested she brought the bottles down and took us home in the car.  I can hear you pointing out that I could have walked back on my own, had I wanted to, but that would have been rather churlish, wouldn’t it?

Oddie in my chair

Matthew had predicted that Oddie would collapse when we got back, and have a good sleep.  He omitted to mention the obvious, which was where the little terrier would lie.  Where else, but in my chair?

Between Matthew’s departure and the arrival of Becky, Flo, and Ian, Jackie and I watched history being made on the tennis court.  Andy Murray defeated Novak Djokovic of Serbia to become the first male British player to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.

This evening Ian took us all out to a restaurant of my choice.  It had to be the recently discovered Plough at Tiptoe.  Three of us had crispy haddock, chips, and peas.  Becky enjoyed the tagliatelle as much as Jackie had done a couple of days ago; and Ian rated his roast beef, lamb, and chicken dinner the best he had eaten.  Ian and I ploughed through enormous bowls of excellent apple and raspberry crumble with custard, and the others scoffed delicious berry creme brulees.  Doom Bar, Fosters, Kronenberg, Diet Coke, Becks, and Apple juice were drunk.  all in all, a splendid event.

Mare’s Tails

On the train yesterday, with Kenneth O. Morgan’s ‘The Twentieth Century’, I finished reading ‘The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain’ in the 1992 edition.  Ten university historians have each contributed a section in their particular field, from Roman times to 1991.  Written for the layperson it does neverless assume a certain amount of prior knowledge, the lack of which caused me to make some assumptions.  It is an excellent overview of 2,000 years of history, well written, and lavishly illustrated.  Each separate piece flows into the next, quite seamlessly.  It provided interesting revision for periods I know a bit about, and was informative about those I didn’t.

I must confess to having been relieved at getting to the end.  Not because the reading wasn’t pleasing, but because it will considerably lighten my bag on my train trips.  It is quite a big book, but its size was not the reason for its weight.  The illustrations are interspersed with the text.  This requires a heavy glossy paper throughout.  I much prefer it this way.  The alternative is to cluster the illustrations at two or three arbitrary places, so you are often perusing pictures the subject of which you have not yet encountered.

As we progressed through the second millennium the illustrations changed in nature and subject. Photographs of artefacts provided most of the early ones.  With the advent of the possibility of using a contemporary camera, people and events came into focus.  Written records enabled the writers to go further than when facilitated mostly by archeological finds.  From the eighteenth century onwards there was less of an emphasis on royalty and more on the politics of the people.  Given its publication date it was rather salutory to see the first fifty years of my life confined to history.

I enjoyed the book.  It was another that I had inherited from my late friend Ann.

Corfe Castle

A trip to Corfe Castle in Dorset continued the historical theme.  Certainly in situ during the time of King William I, it was said to be the scene of the assassination of King Edward in 978.  Described in the twelfth century as the most secure castle in England, it remained impregnable until, during the Civil War, Lady Bankes’s stout resistance to the Roundhead siege was ended by the treachery of one of her own soldiers who admitted Cromwell’s men during the night. Corfe Castle 3 It was then blown up by Captain Hughes’s sappers in 1646, leaving us with a dramatic skyline on a natural mound the outer perimeter of which has been eroded by the action of two rivers. From the National Trust car park Jackie andI followed a path along the site of the moat tracked by the Corfe River. Corfe Castle 2 Through gaps in the trees we could see the impressive remains that had survived the explosion.  Pieces of ‘tumble’, as were termed those stones falling down the hill, mingled with the residue still standing.

Corfe Castle valerianBridgeInside the castle, through the entrance and across the access bridge, we could see the remains of walls sprouting valerian and accommodating dog roses. Dog roses Jackdaws trotted about the ramparts, and buzzards circled overhead. Stocks Just past the gateway sat a pair of stocks.  I managed to climb most of the way to the top of the keep, which was scary.  There was an observation platform from which people looked down over the valley and the sloping sides of the mound.  Observation platformAlthough I did unwittingly actually reach the same level as that, I chickened out of turning the corner that would have led me to it.  Jackie, who had done this trip with her sisters at the weekend, had the good sense to sit on a bench and await my descent.

Corfe Castle in landscape

Venturing to look over almost any wall gave one a good, vertiginous, view of whatever lay beneath.

Houses beneath castle walls

Having had our fill of the ruins we wandered into the picturesque stone village of Corfe which is dominated by its castle.

Corfe & its castle

Mare's tailsOn the way home we took a diversion to Sway Road in Brockenhurst to look at the outside of a railway cottage we had seen on the internet.  The house and its neighbour shared a small private track accessed by a cattle grid.  This should have led us to expect the banks to be completely devoid of mares’ tails.  We were to be disappointed.  There was a widespread proliferation of the botanical version.  These are invasive deep-rooted weeds with fast growing underground stems that may penetrate as deep as 7 ft, and have been doing so since the time of the dinosaurs.  This pernicious plant is extremely difficult to eradicate.  Ground elder, which took me sixteen years to banish from Lindum House, is a pussy cat in comparison.Cottage by railway

After this investigation, we drove straight through Sway and carefully entered the car park of The Plough at Tiptoe, where we had wonderful meals.The Plough  Mine was a mixed grill cooked to perfection, with the steak medium rare as I had asked for, so large as to make it impossible for me to contemplate a sweet, and to earn me the admiration of the barmaid for actually finishing it. Mixed grill Jackie was equally impressed with her ham and mushroom tagliatelli and the creme brûlée she did manage to eat.  She drank Becks and I drank Doom Bar.

The Wilderness

Our last diversion was to Barton on Sea where we had a look at The Wilderness, another house from the internet. This was in a secluded position near Barton Common, but has been sold subject to contract.