Not Summer

Although the rain largely kept away today, the weather remained unseasonably cold and overcast as, after purchasing provisions at Ferndene Farm Shop, Jackie and I took a brief drive along Holmsley Passage and back.

Cyclists and dog walkers travelled along the disused railway track; walkers and ponies graced the moorland; and one runner jogged down the hill.

Ponies in particular foraged unconcerned with what went on around them, where

heather purpled the landscape despite the

glowering skies silhouetting the tree line.

The almost dried up stream beneath the road once more ripples, flows, and nurtures weeds.

On Burley Road a pony defied the traffic to encroach upon its companion foal.

Whatever the season is it is definitely not summer.

This evening we all dined on Jackie’ s fusilli pasta bake containing bacon, boiled eggs, and various vegetables, accompanied by baked gammon, with which she drank more os the rosé and I drank La Vieille Ferme vin rouge, 2021.

Rhinefield Ornamental Drive

We had intended to photograph Beechern wood on our forest drive today. This has been one of our regular trips.

It was a shock to find a locked gate across the road forbidding access to non-members of the Caravan Site at the far end. The woman approaching the Forestry Commission gate had left the camper van and opened it for the driver. Who, I wondered, owned the road from which I have produced many photographs of woodland, ponies, and Ober Water.

We diverted to Whitemoor Pond, over which stretches this

branch with flaking bark;

a number of trees were reflected on the shimmering surface

on which fallen leaves float above the clearly visible bed.

From there we drove on to the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive along which I took

a short walk amongst others along the now soggy footpath.

Although it wasn’t at all cold, most were wrapped up, and this gentleman clearly need to raise his collar.

This friendly family were very pleased with this photograph showing their dog really straining at the leash. I could not resist asking who was taking who for a walk.

Fallen leaves clustered at the roots of trees,

even of long-dead stumps.

At Wimbledon College, we were once taught by an art master who told us that trees were never just brown. These trunks were obviously what he meant.

We are now recognising so many fallen giants in the forest that we are able to follow their journey back to the soil from which they sprung. We passed this one a few years ago when it had just been snapped by fierce winds and quickly sawn and removed from the road. Its constituents will probably outlive ours.

Over recent months my library has been taken over by items destined for charity shops and the Council Recycling Depot. This has been a losing battle as further goods have appeared as fast as we declutter – one of the consequences of an increased household with many relatives being keen to bring gifts. Now Christmas items are being added at a rate of knots. This afternoon Jackie and I cleared and organised the space so that I can once again reach individual volumes.

This evening we dined on tasty fish cakes: haddock for me, cod for Jackie, and salmon for Flo; crunchy carrots and tender cauliflower leaves; the Culinary Queen’s piquant cauliflower cheese and colourful savoury rice, accompanied by the same beverages as yesterday.

Coming Clean

This morning our friend Giles visited to collect me for a walk. Unfortunately his idea of flat terrain varied a little from mine.

The footpath from the Taddiford Gap was so narrow that when we met oncoming traffic, unable, like crows, to perch on a post, we needed to squeeze ourselves into rather awkward spaces.

Barbed wire fences lined either side of the path, so there was no point in grabbing theirs.

We walked along the path, watching others on the hilltops

and eventually arriving at the path alongside the clifftop with its view

across scintillating seascapes to the Isle of Wight and The Needles.

There we had the option of turning left

or right. This seemed the gentler route.

After we had passed the time of day with the walkers in the above two pictures, knowing that I had my limitations,

my concerned friend asked when I thought we would reach the halfway point of my capacity. “We’ve passed it”, said I. After a brief discussion we decided that turning back would involve slightly less distance than pushing on to Barton where it wouldn’t be very easy for him to pick me up.

It was no easier for him to pick me up outside the car park that was our starting point. At one point he suggested I rested on a tussock. “I wouldn’t be able to get up”, I replied.

Back I staggered and eventually with the end in sight, like the wobbling Italian Dorando Pietri in the 1908 London marathon, I fell over. And couldn’t get up. Considering the number of people we had met along the route, it was something of Sod’s law that no-one was around then.

Giles went hunting for a car driver while I turned myself onto my front, abused the knees of my pale fawn trousers and the elbows of my equally light hued linen jacket, and dragged myself to the the concrete post at the entrance to the car park. My hands clasping the top of the bollard I struggled, without success, to haul myself up.

Welcome voices heralded the arrival of my friend with Damien and his dog. The dog was confined to his owner’s car. The two men each took a hand and heaved – successfully. Back on my feet I was OK.

Now, when posting our trips over the last twelve months, I have not dwelt on the gradual decrepitude that has crept up on me. My knees really don’t work at all well, and remain painful, so any use after about twenty minutes is really tough. For “walk”, “stagger” should sometimes be substituted.

Today’s final photograph is of one of the last 6,000 surviving pillboxes of the 28,000 placed at strategic points across the country in anticipation of a German invasion during World War II. After that I needed all my concentration to end our journey.

You don’t have to know me very long to know that giving up is not in my repertoire. So I will continue to do what I can, but accept that I shall never take on such a walk again.

It was good to have done it again with my friend of more than 50 years.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s mild chicken jalfrezi, pilau rice, and parathas, with which she finished the Sauvignon Blanc, I drank more of the Fleurie, and Flo and Dillon abstained.


On another very hot, yet progressively overcast morning we drove to Otter Nurseries where Jackie bought herself another very long hose – this time on wheels to reduce carrying it about – for the garden.

We travelled on to Barton on Sea where I stationed myself

on a bench in order to attach my longest camera lens, while Jackie stayed nearer

the Beachcomber café. These two of her pictures show the burnt condition

of the grasses and the thrift that I pictured on the cliff edge from where I

beamed down on a number of visitors wishing to scorch themselves. I wonder what Barbara, Book Club Mom would make of the couple reading in deckchairs?

We each photographed sailboats in the haze against the Isle of Wight, Jackie,

who also picked out the beach huts at Mudeford, choosing The Needles and their lighthouse as her backdrop.

This evening we dined on starters of Chicken in Nando’s Lemon and herb sauce on Jackie’s savoury rice; followed by her spicy paprika pork, boiled potatoes and tender runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Shiraz.

On Tarmac And Moorland

This morning we worked on completing our preparation of guest bedrooms for reasons which will become clear tomorrow.

After lunch we took a forest drive.

Having seen a very large foal being suckled in a field on Jordans Lane I stepped out of the car and sank into autumn leaves in a dry ditch, by which time the ponies had and diverted their attention to me. I was then

distracted by raucous rooks cawing from above.

Further along the road donkeys in the process of shedding their winter coats wandered among the traffic or hugged the verges.

Cattle and ponies shared the moorland off Bull Hill.

Ponies dined by the roadside, spilling onto the tarmac of East Boldre;

walkers led by a dog carrying a branch approached from the distance;

while another equine tore at juicy grass piercing the surface of a puddle.

This evening we dined on pepperoni pizza, hot and spicy prawns, and fresh salad with which I finished the Bierzo.

The Assistant Photographer Saves The Day

This morning I posted

After a heavy fall of sleet at lunchtime the darkly brooding clouds slunk away and the sun shone for the rest of the chilly afternoon. We did not receive the expect snowfall.

Jackie drove me to Lymington where I collected a large print for Jan and Bob Beekman; a flash gun for my camera, and two printing inks.

We continued across the forest to Bramshaw where I photographed the gravestones of the 12th Century St Peter’s Church.

From there we continued to Nomansland where I photographed ponies cropping the cricket outfield on the village green.

When I loaded these photographs onto my computer screen every single one was out of focus. How could this be, I wondered. I then checked the settings on my 35 mm lens which I had used for these shots, and found that that it was set for manual focus, which I never use. When the shop assistant who had set up my new flash gun to be fixed on automatic he had said “you could do it on automatic, too”. I had replied “please don’t confuse me with that. I never go off automatic”.

The only shot we have of that earlier trip is this one Jackie took of a footpath sign beside a stile leading into the church.

Even that would have saved the day, but Jackie went one further by suggesting we drove on to Barton on Sea to watch the sun going down. For this I had changed to the

70/300 mm lens which had been left alone.

Sunset Slicing Slate Skies

Slate-dull as it has been, today we experienced the warmest New Year’s Eve since records began.

Plasterer Martin Paulley, who on 5th will begin the work which will complete the Kitchen Makers project visited to check what he has to do.

After lunch I posted

Later this afternoon Jackie and I collected medication from the Milford Pharmacy and went on to meet Becky and Ian at the Beachcomber at Barton on Sea.

A photographer on the clifftop at Milford had difficulty locating the throughly obscured Isle of Wight;

a child stood too close to the ever-crumbling edge for my comfort;

others walked along the path which has more than once been brought further inland.

Choppy seas slipped back from the shingle before reaching the rows of beach huts.

We emerged from the Beachcomber with the western skies lightened enough for us to see walkers along the seafront and for the sunset to slice the slate skies.

This evening we dined on cottage pie topped with fried potatoes; firm roast parsnips and Brussels sprouts; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; and tasty gravy. Jackie finished the Sauvignon Blanc; Becky and Ian drank the last of the Zesty; and I drank more of the Merlot-Tannat.

As The Sun Sank Slowly Into The Sea

Before lunch I posted

Later this afternoon, after I had read more of ‘Dombey and Son’, my Chauffeuse drove me to

Highcliffe Castle where she parked the car while lights were being switched on in the exhibition room, and, clutching ice-cold metal rails, I walked down

steep, slippery, steps to the sands below. Despite notices urging us to keep left a couple of families who didn’t seem to know made my descent rather more precarious.

Through trees rising upright from the slope I glimpsed walkers I aimed to join.

As the sleepy sun sank slowly into the sea, walkers walked; a jogger jogged; a couple kissed with enthusiasm; smooth waves lapped the shoreline; the Isle of Wight and The Needles lighthouse eyed the scene; and I climbed back up to the Modus.

This evening we dined on succulent roast chicken thighs; roast potatoes; sage and onion stuffing; crunchy carrots and cauliflower; firm Brussels sprouts; and meaty gravy with which Jackie drank more of the Sauvignon Blanc and I drank Tulga Joven 2019

A Spot Of Pedicure

Jackie drove us to Ferndene Farm shop where she bought eggs, a leg of lamb, and vegetables while I photographed some of the produce displayed outside, including

pumpkins, cut flowers, cyclamen and pansies.

A pair of roofers worked across the road.

On this warm, damp, and largely overcast day the sun briefly signalled its presence when I stopped to commune with ponies outside Burley.

One grey indulged in a spot of pedicure.

A number of walkers enlivened the landscape.

I had no problem uploading pictures today, which is probably just as well since obtaining two multiple page forms concerning Mum’s probate was a different story.

As I eventually said when I got to speak to someone in the probate service, because I am an old man who didn’t grow up with computers I want to do as much as possible as an executor without going on line. Having previous experience in the case of my friend Wolf I knew that I needed Probate Application and Tax forms. gives information about obtaining and completing these on line, but not about receiving them by post.

I therefore tried the telephone. After three differently accented machine voices led me through three different option numbers to press I eventually joined the muzak queue – for a good half hour. The man who eventually answered me and I enjoyed an amusing conversation when I explained that I wanted paper forms sent to me. Normally he could have done this, but not now. Why?

Because they are out of print. I can, of course, download them and print them myself.

I hoped to calm myself by reading a little more of ‘Dombey and Son’ and scanning the next four of Charles Keeping’s excellent illustrations.

‘Then came rows of houses’ displays one of the artist’s excellent street scenes, this time with chickens; and with the foreground portrait offering perspective.

‘Captain Cuttle advanced to the table’, and the next two drawings show more of Keeping’s excellent portraits.

‘The doctor was sitting in his portentous study’ is one;

‘Paul’s chair was next to Miss Blimber’ contains two.

The errors during uploading returned with a vengeance in these. I had so many attempts at the first that I couldn’t see straight. The process took a very long time, and I was then unable to edit them in the gallery. That will also have to be tackled mañana.

This evening we dined on tasty baked gammon; succulent ratatouille; firm roast potatoes, some of which were sweet; crunchy carrots; tender green beans; and piquant cauliflower cheese, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2018.

A Forest Walk

During this pleasantly sunny morning, I was mostly dead heading while Jackie continued with her general garden maintenance.

After lunch I posted

We had been promised light showers for the afternoon, and this is how it began, so my Chauffeuse drove me to the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive and parked in one of the designated car parks while I took a walk. The rain kept coming, but it was mild and sporadic enough for me to set off for twenty minutes each way, crunching along a gravel path and pine cones carpeting the forest floor

through the majestic giant redwoods and their neighbours

some of which, having fallen, would take their time returning to the soil. In answer to Yvonne comment below, I have discovered that “Managing forest land often generates lots of woody branches, pieces of trees and other loose woody material — slash in other words — from tree harvesting or thinning. While many landowners and managers look upon this material as a disposal dilemma, it also is a rich, and frequently overlooked, opportunity for to enhance wildlife habitat. Arranging slash materials into piles can provide birds, mammals and other wildlife in the forest with the food, water, space and cover they need.” (

I believe Forestry Commission volunteers make the stacks we see.

At first there were many other groups of walkers taking a similar route.

This was to change in a moment, as quiet adult voices and shrill cries of children were drowned by the increasing crescendo of pattering precipitation misting the trees,

puddling the path, and running down my specs and my camera lens.

This was at my turn round point and continued, soaking me to the skin beneath my allegedly showerproof jacket, until my mud-spattered sandals, sans socks, reached the car. Just one family of three passed me in the rush to get out of the rain. The mother informed me that she had wet pants. “Is that all?” was my reply.

With all fresh ingredients, Jackie repeated yesterday’s menu for dinner tonight, with which we drank the same beverages.