We have enjoyed excellent, efficient, and smooth on line repeat prescription service from our local pharmacy adjacent to our GP surgery for a good number of years. Until some weeks ago all changed. There were more people than ever working in the background behind the counter; apparent computer problems; missing prescriptions; people in queues having been told to come back next day – one man 3 days running; a generally harassed atmosphere. I was never inconvenienced myself, except for having queued behind the unhappy people, when previously queueing had been rare; Jackie had suffered from the “try again tomorrow” syndrome, as had someone else in the family – regularly.

When we visited this morning I asked to speak to the person in charge to ask about what was going wrong. I would have had to drive 45 minutes away to do this because that is where the new owner was now based. Our independent company had been taken over by another of that ilk.

My conversation with staff was most amenable and I was given the new owner’s address. They would welcome a complaint from me. Bigger is clearly not better.

Today’s weather was similar to yesterday’s. That is generally overcast until we returned home from a late afternoon forest drive when the sun put in an appearance for the evening.

A tractor working over a field of many pheasants sent the birds scattering across Sowley Lane.

Along St Leonard’s Road a group of donkeys foraged above and within a dry ditch.

One of two foals, having untangled itself from a barbed wire fence crossed to the other side of the road;

the other, probably quite surprised by the presence of a bus we have never seen here before, allowed the vehicle to pass.

From the car, Jackie photographed honeysuckle in the hedgerow and the younger foal suckling.

I contributed a stem of valerian growing from the fourteenth century stone wall of St Leonard’s Grange and a cluster of conkers soon to fall.

This evening we all dined on succulent roast chicken; sage and onion stuffing; boiled new potatoes; crunchy carrots and cauliflower with which Jackie drank Lambrusco and I drank Mas d’Anglade Montpeyroux 2018.

A Walk Round The Garden

The sun emerged quite late today. After I had opened the gate for Aaron.

These are a few shots I took on the way there and back. As usual accessing these two galleries with clicks will access titles.

Much of the rest of the day was spent listening to the Ashes Test Match.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s choice chicken jalfrezi; marvellous mushroom rice topped with a perfect omelette; and a tasty paratha with which she drank Blue Moon and I drank more of the Saint-Chinian


A recent post from Sandra had me reaching for my copy of

I will simply refer you to Sandra’s review and say that I enjoyed this short book in my 1977 paperback edition.

Taking regular rests, today I was mostly occupied with irrigation and decapitation of garden plants,

More lilies are blooming on the patio;

we have a peripatetic plethora of hemerocallis, incorrectly called day lilies.

The last of these faces this small clematis climbing the trellis in the front garden,

and stands beside this fuchsia Delta’s Sarah.

Most hanging baskets contain petunias and trailing lobelias.

Bees were particularly attracted to geranium palmatums and yellow saxifrages.

In the Rose Garden, Just Joey has matured, and Alan Titchmarsh stands proud.

Both are visible in these images also including a red carpet rose and Love Knot.

Rosa Gallica has shed a tear over a Deep Secret.

We can drink in the beauty of Hot Chocolate.

Lady Emma Hamilton and Absolutely Fabulous converse with Crown Princess Margareta in the background;

and red valerian introduces

the deep red potted geranium at the edge of the Oval Path.

WordPress took note of my paperback’s title and flushed out everything that followed as soon as I had completed this post, so I was forced to do it all again. Grrrrr.

This evening I dined on Jackie’s glorious chicken jalfrezi; pilau rice; and onion bahji, with which I drank Peroni.

Six Trains

This post by Linda at shoreacres, https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/32382/posts/2281944455 took me back this morning to my 1940s childhood.

Linda has eloquently described steam railways in America.

From 1947 to 1954 the magical – to us children at least – The Devon Belle steamed past our kitchen window in Raynes Park on its way from Waterloo station to the West Country. Details of the train and its history can be found in http://railway.g3w1.com/The_Devon_Belle/devon_belle.htm

I was intrigued to read that the author of this piece lived in Raynes Park until he was three and a half, and has memories similar to mine, although I was 5 years old in the inaugural year.

My entire childhood from the age of two in1944 to 1960 was spent in the maisonette at 29a Stanton Road, alongside which ran the railway path. The family ate in the kitchen where we could watch the trains. Chris and I would collect the numbers of those driven by electricity at any time during the day. But our favourite was https://youtu.be/XPpqD3GUmSA

This was, of course, because of the steam engines, but also the Pullman carriages which gave us something else to collect. Each of these first class cars bore a different name, usually of a woman.

When eating we were not expected to wolf down our food, leave the table, and get on with whatever else in which we had been engrossed. No, we had to wait for six trains to go by before we were permitted to “get down”.

When I open the back gate for Aaron on a Sunday morning this involves a walk down the gravelled back drive.

Beyond the gate on the south side we have a range of wallflowers and valerian;

on the opposite side there is currently a heap of the redundant griselina stumps, and more yellow wallflowers.

The dark patch of soil a bit further along, beside another stump and a spray of libertia, consists of spent compost from Jackie’s pots. This is being used to fill the holes left by the removal of the overgrown hedging.

Further still, a clump of Johnson’s Blue geraniums is found beside erigeron and bronze fennel.

This afternoon Jackie drove us into the forest for a brief journey before the rain set in.

Forest Road Burley was the venue for an equine mothers and babies group, only occasionally divided by the traffic with which they played havoc. Observant readers may spot the foal featured in ‘Aquatic Surface Cover’ of May 8th.

A young man with a video camera also stopped to film the scene. We enjoyed pleasant conversation.

For this evening’s dinner the Culinary Queen roasted duck breasts in plum sauce and served them with mushroom wild rice with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Carmenere.

P.S. Our friend Barrie Haynes has made this comment on my Facebook page:  ‘Unfortunately, the Devon Belle was not a commercial success. The Observation Cars had to be turned on the locomotive turntable at Ilfracombe and the station was badly sited for the town. I believe the Pullman observation cars were later used in Scotland and I think at least one of them is still with us. Because there were no water troughs on the Southern, engines were normally changed at Wilton.’

Selfie With Sir Robert


Boat on shallows

This afternoon we drove around the lanes to the east of the Forest. Our first port of call was the beach at Tanner’s Lane. A rowing boat lay among the rocks in the shallows.

Shorescape 1

The water further out, fronting the Isle of Wight was blue, still, and clear. Portsmouth’s  Spinnaker Tower stood steady on the horizon.


Was this print evidence of the New Forest yeti?

Couple on beach 2

Several couples took advantage of this balmy September day.

Couple on beach 1

This pair claimed no knowledge of

Glass on post

 the champagne glass standing on a nearby post. I tested the quality before deciding to leave it where it was.

Isle of Wight from mainland

A lovely view of the rolling hills of the Isle of Wight was available from St Leonard’s Road,


along which one of my driver’s acceptable cyclists happily pedalled. Jackie takes exception to those dressed in bum-hugging lycra with a professional air and knobbly calves.

St Leonard's Barn 1St Leonard's Barn 2

Further on, St Leonard’s Barn

St Leonard's Barn ruin 1St Leonard's Barn ruin 2St Leonard's Barn ruin 3

and its ruins basked in the late afternoon sunshine.


Valerian sprang from

Stone wall 1

the ancient stone walls;

Dogrose hips

dog rose hips mingled with blackberries in the hedgerows opposite;


hay bales were poised to roll across the fields;

Pool and reflection

and a pool by the wayside reflected the skies and iron fencing atop the slope above.


Nearer home we passed a Batman v Superman scarecrow contest at Classic Hair & Beauty Clinic, 40 Stopples Lane;

Derrick reflected with Scarecrow

and I took a selfie with P.C. Robert Peel at Hordle Pharmacy, 26 Ashley Lane.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s luscious lamb jalfrezi served with onion rice. I drank Prestige de Calvet Cotes du Rhone Villages 2016. The Culinary Queen had already consumed her Hoegaarden in the Rose Garden.



Even The Dog Knows……


Helen and Shelly visited this morning for coffee, scones, and a trip round the garden.

Unfortunately the sun disappeared during their visit. My later photographs saw better light.

Red campion

This red campion is allegedly a weed, but we like it.

Roseriae de l’Hay now flaunts her flounced skirts in the Rose Garden;


larger deep orange

Yellow poppy and allium

and small yellow poppies are flowering;


mauve lamium lines the Brick Path;

and a blue clematis climbs the gazebo.

The tour along the Back Drive reveals clusters of creamy May blossom; two varieties of iris; this year’s honesty; white libertia, red and yellow wallflowers; sculptural euphorbia; differently hued heucheras; roses rambling and bushed; daisy-like erigeron; geraniums, including Johnson’s blue; wispy bronze fennel; deep red valerian; and no doubt much that I have missed.

After lunch we transported the two large orange bags of clippings to the Dump, now known as the Efford Recycling Centre. Making up for having left empty-handed last time, we came back with two tables and a mirror for the garden. As we turned into Christchurch Road a dog on a lead was taking its own dump on the corner of the verge. While its back legs still frantically tossed up various items of herbaceous vegetation, the desperate creature was dragged away by its owner. I observed that even the dog had more idea about cleanliness than she did. My comment was made inside the car, as Jackie, who hadn’t seen the event, drove us away.

Later, while the Head Gardener continued tidying, weeding, and planting, I gave the buddleia in the Palm Bed such a severe trim as to refill one of the orange bags with the cuttings.

There was plenty left over from yesterday’s Indian takeaway for us to have second helpings this evening. I finished the Fleurie. Jackie had consumed her Hoegaarden on the patio earlier.

Perseverance Rewarded


Until 2.30 p.m. when Jackie drove us to Brockenhurst to collect our friend Sheila who is staying with us for a few days, she continued sterling maintenance in the garden while Aaron and Robin continued with the fencing.


The erigeron outside the French windows featured as part of yesterday’s kitchen door shot. Here is a close-up of some of them.

Walking down the back drive to open the gate for our two marvellous garden maintenance men, I admired, on the bordering beds,



Wallflowers and valerian

wallflowers and valerian;

Rose Félicité Perpetué

and rose Féliticé Perpetué, now draping the dead stumps.

Rose garden 1

Rose garden 3

The heucheras in the Rose Garden provide stiff competition for the roses themselves.

Rose garden 4

Here, the geranium palmatums lead us in,

Aquilegias, Schoolgirl and Golden Showers

and aquilegias front Schoolgirl and Golden Showers.

Rose Ballerina and honeysuckle

 Ballerina dances with honeysuckle alongside the entrance arch.

Rose Hot Chocolate

The rose Hot Chocolate in the front garden is, however, just ahead of that in the back.

Rose pink climber

Rose deep pink climber

Festooning the front trellis are two different depths of pink roses.

View from Crytomeria Bed

Here is a view across the Cryptomeria Bed to Elizabeth’s Bed.

Rose peach bush

The peach coloured rose photographed yesterday is further open today.

Hoverfly on For Your Eyes Only

The smallest hoverfly I have ever seen landed on For Your Eyes Only.

Bee on stick

I have striven for a long time to capture a bee in flight. Today my perseverance was rewarded.

This evening we all dined on Jackie’s lemon chicken, mashed potatoes, peas, and carrots. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, I drank more of the Fleurie, and Sheila drank water.

How Many Bees In This Post?

Snake Bark maple skeleton

Jackie and I spent the morning on an enforced feat of forestry. With the head gardener’s advice, guidance, and assistance I sawed off a myrtle branch that had been twisted by the gales, and then performed an autopsy on the snake bark maple. This latter tree has, sadly, died. We performed emergency amputations last autumn, but it failed to recover. I therefore cut down the highest branches, leaving the skeleton as a frame for climbing plants yet to be determined. I protected my left hand with a padded cycling glove purchased by Jackie in the lucky dip that is Lidl’s central aisle. With a certain amount of trepidation I teetered on the step ladders made stable with a wedge or two. It is amazing how hard this dead wood was to cut through.

The thinner limbs I chopped into combustible sections for the next bonfire. This afternoon I sawed up the thicker ones for our wood burner pile, and Jackie continued with her creative planting. After a few yards amble down the lane, I called it a day.

Bee on dandelion

In the lane, a bee flitted from dandelion to dandelion as I tracked it, eventually catching it.


Wherever you look in the garden, a wide variety of alliums is to be found.


On the back drive, we are hoping recently planted antique parchment pigmented irises will thrive, thus emulating

Valerian and wallflowersthe rather more strident valerians and wallflowers.

The Chilean lantern tree is a-whirr with leg-loaded worker bees.

Bees on Chilean Lantern tree 1

How many can you spot in this shot?

Bees on Chilean Lantern tree 2

And in this one?  Clicking on the images will help.

This evening we dined on tangy smoked cod, creamy mashed potatoes, piquant cauliflower cheese, firm sweetcorn and peas, and crunchy carrots. We both drank Heritage de Calvet white cotes du Rhone 2014, and a good accompaniment it was.

Smoked cod meal

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.

Gathering Supplies For The Queen

I do not close my bedroom shutters in Sigoules, and am usually awake at daybreak.  Six telephone cables, stretched loosely along the street, pass the now double-glazed tall window.  There is a lamp fixed to the outside wall on my right.  As I stirred very early this morning, a fluorescent flash, lit by this illumination, streaked diagonally upwards across the panes, to perch momentarily on the topmost wire, then, emblazoned against the deep indigo of the pre-dawn sky visible above the trees opposite, to dart away.  An early bird indeed.

The local people think I am joking when I tell them it is far warmer in Minstead than it is here.  Yesterday’s high was eight degrees and Carrefour had welcoming industrial fan heaters mounted high above the shelves exhaling steadily.  One beneficiary of the unseasonal wet weather has been my tiled garden.  Everything is blooming. Valerian, geraniums and blue flowers I am particularly pleased with the Valerian which I bought as a single stem and planted in the stone wall.  The pale pink geraniums growing in a couple of inches of soil beneath it were brought here by Maggie and Mike from Dover Street, Southwell a good ten years ago.

BeeBee (2)It was a bright enough morning for bees to venture out busily labouring to load their limbs with pollen.

Tarpaulin protecting scaffolding next door flapped frantically, battered by the threatening gusts of wind, reminding me of our neighbour opposite in Gracedale Road during the great storm of 1987 (see post of 2nd June 2012).

Dusting, polishing, and hoovering continued on the first floor after I had figured out how to change the bag for the machine.  In switching attachments I learned how I had managed to cut my thumb yesterday.  I had only spotted that when one of the picture frames displayed a smear of the wrong colour on its top left hand corner.

After this a late lunch consisted of a scrumptious baguette and sausage.