The Watchers On The Shore

Today’s weather was once more clear, bright, sunny, and cooler.

Bees continued collecting nectar throughout the garden. On my walk around I captured them on bidens, and on the more mature blooms of Festive Jewel.

Crisp young examples of the latter await their turn at contributing to the queen’s larder.

Tomatoes continue to ripen in readiness for ours.

It is a good thing I was not using film in my attempts to catch the myriad of fluttering snowflakes in the form of Small White butterflies while they swirled through the air. I settled for those landing on a poppy head and on a verbena bonarensis. Another took pity on me and perched on a petunia.

Orange crocosmia Emily Mckenzie brightens the Dead End Path and pink sweet peas dance in the Weeping Birch Bed.

Our Bishop of Llandaff in the New Bed was eaten by a vole a couple of years ago. Its deeper red companion has survived.

Another plant that has proved impossible to grow in the various beds tried by the Head Gardener is the gaura. This one is thriving in a pot.

Lady Emma Hamilton produces multiple flushes.

Rows of small begonias sparkle on the borders of beds like these alongside the Heligan Path.

Nugget darted in and out nearby. I am beginning to wonder whether he associates the click of the camera with the clink of a trowel.

One of the pictures above should provide a clue to today’s “Where’s Nugget?” (9)

Late this afternoon we took drive into the forest.

The only sign of life on Hatchet Pond was this pair of swans.

The others must have heard that members of an excited family were feeding the birds beside the nearby Beaulieu River.

Kite surfers and sailboarders struggled on the Solent at the end of Tanners Lane, where they were watched by a young man on the shore. I suppose I made it two watchers so I could legitimately borrow the title of Stan Barstow’s novel.

This evening we dined on Lidl’s rack of pork spare ribs in barbecue sauce; the Culinary Queen’s flavoursome mushroom rice; and the Head Gardener’s tender runner beans, with which Jackie drank Belgium’s Hoegaarden and I finished Tesco’s finest Chilean Malbec.

Ladybird, ladybird…….


Solanum and honeysuckle

As shown from the solanum and honeysuckle on the trellis, our front garden remained free of ash from next door’s bonfire,

Ash on pulmonaria leaves

and, although some the precipitation, such as this on the pulmonaria

Ash on Japanese anemones

and Japanese anemones, remains,

Dragon Bed

the fire has died down and we are able to see the garden views again, and beds like that of the Dragon are able once more to savour the sunlight.


This decorative dahlia

Oval Bed 2

sharing the Oval Bed with orange hawkweed,

Oval Bed

bidens, phlox, and rampant rudbeckia, basks in a more pleasant source of warmth.

Gladiolus and sweet peas 1

Gladioli and sweet peas retain their pristine whiteness;

Iron urn

contents of the iron urn cascade over the Brick Path;

Chrysanthemums 1

and these potted chrysanthemums enjoy the increase of light provided by the removal of the North Breeze jungle.

Stinging nettle in Elizabeth's Bed

Splendid stinging nettles, like this one in Elizabeth’s Bed, are making their presence felt. They will have to go.


Little cherry tomatoes are ripening;

View across grass patch

the grass looks lush;

View from Phantom Path across Weeping Birch Bed

and the Weeping Birch Bed,

Kitchen Bed

Kitchen Bed,

Rose GardenMirror in Rose Garden

and Rose Garden, fresh again.

Ladybird on dahlia

Now, what do we have here? “Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home; your house is on fire and your children are gone.”

This afternoon we are on our way to Emsworth for a family celebration of Becky’s birthday. We will stay overnight and I will report on that tomorrow. It will be an Italian meal at Nicolino’s.




Raindrops on tomatoesRaindrops on roseThe garden still freshly dripped this morning after a night’s deluge of rain. I was reminded of ‘A few of [Julie Andrews’s] favourite things’, from ‘The Sound of Music’.
GreengagesAfter a wander round the estate, Jackie drove me to New Milton for me to catch the London train. I visited the money bank first, but was still rather early for the train and sat outside the station for a while. Plum-like fruit had dropped from their branches and tumbled down a grassy bank opposite, into the wet gutter. Because I didn’t know what they were, especially as they were a yellow/orange colour, I asked a passing woman who seemed vaguely familiar. She identified them as greengages and walked on into the ticket office. Soon afterwards she, having had the same sense of partial recognition, returned, having realised I was Chris’s brother.
Annie, which is her name, was at school with my sister in law Frances and a joint friend of theirs called Stephanie. Chris, Frances, Stephanie and her husband,John, had once shared a holiday with Jackie and me in Sigoules. We had first met at my niece Fiona’s wedding to Paul in August 2007, at which I had, fortunately for this post’s illustrations, taken the photographs. Jackie and I had both then met them at Chris and Frances’s Ruby Wedding celebration.

Here is Fiona on her big day:Fiona wedding 8.07 005


She and Paul here stand with their respective mothers, Frances, of course, next to her daughter:Fiona and Paul with their Mums Fiona & Paul wedding 8.07 010

Finally, Stephanie and Annie, on the right, arrive in the garden:Stephanie & Annie Fiona & Paul wedding 8.07 048

Otherwise, my journey was uneventful until I arrived at Waterloo. At the Gents on the station the change machine let fall into the tray 3 x 20p in exchange for my 50p piece. Either because the dispenser didn’t appear to have any 10p coins or because the barriers themselves were faulty they were left open and we were all invited to walk through at no charge. Soon afterwards, I picked up £5 on the concourse. Normally, in order to use the conveniences, one is relieved of 30 pee. Instead of this, I emerged from the terminal station £5.10p better off. I’d call that a result.

I took my usual route to Norman’s where he fed us on roast pork, roasted vegetables, croquette potatoes, and broad beans, followed by mixed fruit latticed tart. We shared a fine bottle of Douro.

After this, I travelled by my customary method to Carol’s, and from there back to New Milton where Jackie was waiting and drove me home.

Kenneth Clark learned his trade as an art historian long before the subject was taught in British universities like Nottingham, where my granddaughter Emily is currently studying. Clark was an extremely accomplished member of the profession, as is amply evidenced by ‘The Nude’, which I finished reading on the train. He has a sensitive and insightful approach to his material which covers drawings, paintings, and sculpture from antiquity to the early twentieth century. First published in 1956, before the advent of the internet, his encyclopaedic knowledge is impressive, and eloquently and entertainingly expressed. My Folio Society edition, the beautiful cover of which is featured in my post of 24th July, is lavishly illustrated.

High Maintenance

In a recent exchange with my Facebook friend Kanan Buta, who had, from afar, been admiring the garden in pictures, I commented that because this was our first year it was full of surprises.IKEA wardrobe fence ‘Pleasant ones, I hope?’, she replied. ‘Not always’, was my answer. One of the less pleasant ones, as my readers may know, is the amount of rubble including chunks of concrete and broken tiles we have been bagging up and taking to the municipal dump. Today, I found a use for the next batch for disposal. The untended garden next door lies at a somewhat lower level than ours. This means the path I have been clearing between the two properties, in parts, drops away steeply, leaving an uneven trench. Several bags of rubble filled the holes and helped to keep the last sections of the IKEA wardrobe fence, added this morning, in place. The whole is not the most beautiful example of garden design, but at least it will help to keep the triffids at bay. That reminds me – the morning’s efforts included cutting down an adolescent bay tree.
Main gravel pathHelidan pathDead end gravel pathAs I spent the best part of the afternoon hoeing, raking, and sweeping the gravel paths, whilst Jackie dripped around with her watering can, I reflected on the fact that, at an age when many of our friends are turning to low maintenance gardening, we have done exactly the opposite. I can, of course, comfort myself with the fact that most of the really heavy projects that have occupied the last three months will not require repetition. But a myriad of potted plants will always need water in hot weather, and weeds will need to be removed. I learned today, too, that the bamboo removed from the oval path will continue to crop up in the middle of it. The hoe was inadequate to deal with that. Brute force to pull up the trailing root, and a pair of loppers to cut it off where it joined the main plant were required.
Hebe - New Zealand

The New Zealand hebe identified by Tess is now full of blooms.

Sweet peasTomatoes

Readers will have gleaned that we do not intend to go in for kitchen gardening. Jackie has, however planted sweet peas and tomatoes, probably as  token gestures.

Seriously, sweet peas are among  our favourite flowers.

I don’t know whether the chef at Hordle Chinese Take Away felt like cooking tonight, but we didn’t, so, thanks to Jackie and her Modus, he provided us with our dinner. This was the usual excellent melange from this establishment, accompanied by T’Sing Tao beer.

Isle Of Wight Tomatoes

Early this morning the crow, having adopted the back of the bench as its new taking off strip, flew directly onto the top of the bird feeder, but didn’t stay. It can only scavenge from a tray in the construction, not the closed containers. Jackie is wise to that, so isn’t filling it at the moment. The blackbird, with her partner perching guard on the snake bark tree,  continues to sit on her eggs.

It is now possible to see through the entrance to the kitchen garden from some distance away. Pictured here are two sides of a path surrounding an oval flower bed at the far end of the garden, as they appeared at the beginning of the day. They are in there somewhere. It was my task to begin restoring them to their former glory, whilst Jackie continued transforming the central gravelled walkway. Here, the brambles were rampant and well established. A certain amount of eradication of them from the beds was required.

This revealed more hidden plants, like the day lilies, the colour of one of which seems to have confused a bloodsucking insect into thinking it was clamped on to my forearm. With some painstaking sifting of

earth and gravel Jackie completed the central path today. I, on the other hand, although making a good impact on the left hand side and far end of the ovoid ring, came to an abrupt halt when I encountered the bamboo. A number of strong stems had penetrated the path and defied my fork.

That was a battle I was prepared to fight another day. It had taken three months completely to eradicate a clump of the insidious roots of this grass at The Firs, so I wanted to be fresh for the job. Mañana.
On a sunny day such as this, the light streaming through the kitchen windows at lunchtime is stunning.

Placed at random at the end of the table when preparing it for the food were a vase of tulips Shelly had given Jackie, an accident pot containing alliums and a petunia,   and a bowl of tomatoes.  These tomatoes were a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours. And they were delicious. Jackie had purchased them at Setley Ridge Farm Shop, to which a couple from the Isle of Wight travel weekly to supply them. Apparently supermarkets cannot sell them because they are not uniform in size, redness, and rotundity.
We received a very warm welcome from the family at The Family House Chinese restaurant in Totton where we dined this evening on the usual good food and Tsing Tao beer.

The streaks in the sky on our way home were of the equally warmest hues.

Reminiscing With Don

Don sleeping 7.12

Tomato plant 7.12First thing this morning Don gave me a lesson in pruning tomatoes, to give me the best chance of producing a crop from my compost bin.

We then spent several hours continuing last night’s reminiscences.  Don and Ann shared the Soho, Furzedown, and Lindum House Years with Jessica and me.  We shared their time in Finsbury Park, Cerrigidrudion, and Bungay.  During the next week we will have thirty-odd years to talk about.  Much of what we ranged over is not suitable for a blog, but there is plenty that is.  Taking Michael, Matthew and Becky from the mews flat in Horse and Dolphin Yard off for a day in the country at the Essex show springs to mind.  Bringing happy townies back to The Smoke after a day in the verdant sunshine brought a pleasant end to a satisfying day.  Don was later to help us move from Soho to Furzedown in S.W. London.

We were frequent visitors to N. Wales after Don took early retirement and he and Ann set about renovating their house on a Welsh hillside and converting the attached cowshed into a very attractive home.  Many of the trees Don planted in the ‘parc morc’ (pig field) were saplings from Lindum House.  Don, an accountant from Cheam, soon became a champion dry-stone waller.  Ever modest, he jibbed at my calling him this, but he cannot deny he has trophies to prove it.  In fact, when my family are amused at my signing off my posts with what I had for dinner I always say it is my version of my friend’s teapots.  He always left some container in his walls for birds to nest in, or to bear some memento from his life.  He told me today he only ever put in one teapot.  I had managed to convince  myself it was always teapots.  Just as a child to whom you give one good experience will magnify it into a regular event.

I remember one particular barbecue in the pouring rain in Cerrigidrudion just after they’d moved there.  The subsequent conversion was still a cowshed, which was just as well because that is where we shivered under comparative shelter and ate chicken, sausages, and cuts of meat with our fingers in a smoke-filled atmosphere.  Much more conducive for such an event was the weather at the French gite we shared on a later holiday. Ann & Don 9.82 Don was master of the coals.

I have mentioned that holiday before, and will save the climax for a further post.  Don did remind me, however, that it was then that Sam received his first cut.  I still remember my sadness at my beautiful boy having suffered his first blemish.  During Siesta time, when, of course, nothing was open, we came across a broken shop window.  ‘Don’t’, said I, as our four-year old made a dive for the broken glass.  Too late.  He grabbed it and brought some away in the palm of his hand.  Which I could not get him to open.  Even if I could I would need a pair of tweezers.  We found the duty Sam 9.82 001chemist which was open. Sam 9.82002 She had some tweezers.  But how was I going to get Sam to expose his palm?  She smartly provided the solution.  Out came a bag of sweets.  Our lad could not resist one.  Poised, tweezers in hand, I knew I had, at best, one chance.  Sam’s fingers spread and snaked out for the sweet.  I swooped with the tweezers.  The implement secured and withdrew the shard of glass.  Sam ate his sweet and we bade the woman goodbye.  Ann bought an ice cream and provided a cuddle, and all was well.

Ann and Don were frequent visitors to Lindum House.  When I spoke of the neighbourhood children sliding down the wide staircase on a mattress, frequently knocking the valuable painting off the wall at the foot of the stairs, Don said: ‘I bet Louisa was behind that’.  Too right he was.  He knew her well.  Every time that painting came off, so did a section of its ornate plaster frame.  Ann and Don would, in later years, stop off en route to Don’s family in Norfolk.  They’d spend the day with us, sleep in their caravan on a local site, and press on to visit Don’s daughters.  The couple are both in the group photograph of Michael and Heidi’s wedding which stands on the sitting room table in Sigoules.

After several hours in the garden sunshine, Don went inside for a nap, and I started writing, before our trip to Le Code Bar.  This evening’s repast was steak and chips for me; salmon pizza with a white sauce for Don; Stella and Liffe respectively; and creme brulee for each of us.  Don proclaimed the creme brulee ‘the best in the world.  No wonder you have it after every meal.’