A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing?


The frost fairies were having a laugh this morning as they sprayed Christmas trees onto the car windscreen.

Undeterred, Jackie scraped them off and she and I visited the bottle bank in Milford on Sea and continued on to Keyhaven and back.

Was this a wolf in sheep’s clothing camouflaging itself among these ovine creatures?

After an afternoon of reading we dined on poached eggs, mushrooms of both the breaded and fried varieties, bacon, French fries, tomatoes, and bread and butter. We drank Campanula pinot grigio 2015.

I am quite chuffed because I have converted Becky to The Daily Telegraph crossword which she is successfully completing. Still not my choice of newspaper, but a step up from the Daily Mail.

Carols On The Green


Tomorrow fibre optic broadband is due to be installed. During recent weeks I have not bored either my readers or myself with details of the continuing struggles I have been engaged on in uploading my photographs to WordPress, save to mention that I spent much of today in grappling with yesterday evening’s images.

As previously mentioned, Ian collected Jackie and me after lunch yesterday, and drove us to Emsworth to join up with Becky for us to drive in convoy to Upper Dicker. Ian then drove me, and Becky drove Jackie.

We left in good time, which was fortuitous, because the journey, already very slow, came to a virtual standstill on the Eastbourne stretch of the A27. Eventually the flashing blue lights of ambulance and police car betrayed that an accident was the cause. It was very dark, rain spattered the windscreen, and Ian and I stared at what we could see of our respective partners’ rears.

Happily, we arrived just in time for the start of what was intended to be carols on the village green. In the event it was so wet and muddy, that most people congregated around the front of The Village Shop. It seemed as if the entire population of Upper Dicker including the full complement of St Bede’s school, was in attendance. The snowflakes effect was the happy result of the camera’s flash fixing on the raindrops. Large umbrellas were much in evidence.

Children at table

Inside the shop plentiful mulled wine and variations on minced pies were on offer.

Didi, the shop chef, made a splendidly engaging Santa Claus in his grotto that was the garage store room. The story of how we acquired the pictured reindeer is told in ‘Surprise’.

During the singing Poppy perched on her mother’s arm, as Tess mingled with her guests. When it came to seating her on Santa’s lap, our granddaughter, showing sensitive discernment, produced very rare signs of distress. Fortunately a little friend was on hand to wipe away the tears and help the toddler open her present.

After the event, Becky stayed at Upper Dicker and Ian drove Jackie and me all the way home and stayed the night, returning to Emsworth after lunch.

When Jackie visited Hordle Chinese Take Away for our dinner this evening, Mr Chatty Man Chan was collecting his boys from a pantomime in which they had participated. His wife therefore served her. We. as usual, enjoyed the food, but neither of us imbibed.

Michael Fish

I’m having a bit of fun looking back over the last eighteen months of blogging, and adding where appropriate some older photographs to the posts.  Today I went back thirty years in my archives add added three to ‘Reminiscing With Don’ of last August.

Albeit extremely blustery, it was a beautiful autumn day as we set out on a journey the Met Office had warned everyone against.  Leaves scampered across the sky like swifts riding thermals.  Indeed, as we drove to Mat and Tess’s we saw a number of birds seemingly doing just that.  When reading BBC News Jackie came across advice to ‘keep away from trees’.  She thought that given where we live that might be rather difficult.  Michael Fish was interviewed yesterday predicting that the current gales would not be as devastating as those of 1987.  Someone in charge was having a laugh. Mr. Fish, you see, is probably the best, indeed, for most people the only, known weather announcer of all time.  He famously broadcast a reassurance, in 1987, that the rumoured storm would not happen.  It did.  So if anything was likely to confirm fears of tonight’s tempest it would be putting Michael Fish on air to refute it.

Trees were already bending beside the A27, their foliage tapping on our windscreen seeking shelter within.  As the leaves rushed towards us they reminded me of the one scene in the 3D version of James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ that made me flinch.  Boulders came flying out of the screen straight at the audience’s heads.

We were not to be deterred from our trip which was a belated birthday celebration for our daughter in law.  Jackie took a delicious apple and apricot crumble to follow Tess’s superb roast pork; roast potatoes, carrots, and parsnips; Dauphinoise potatoes; leek and cabbage compote; apple sauce; and dark red wine gravy.  Red wines by Tess and me and various beers by Jackie and Matthew were consumed.  Tess liked the presents we had bought yesterday.

Tess in The Village Shop

After the meal we had coffee in The Village Shop so that we could see the new counter layout. The Village Shop Counter Every time we go the establishment seems even more inviting and attractive than the last.

The clocks were turned back an hour at two o’clock this morning, the end of British Summer Time.  This meant that it was already dark at 6 pm. when we set off back home.  Wet windscreenDark, wet, and windy.  At times the windscreen wipers could barely cope with the water that was thrown at it. Rain hammered down directly into it, splashed up on impact with the roads, and formed a fine spray spinning from the wheels of other cars.Wet windscreen 3 Wet windscreen 2 I don’t know how Jackie managed in the driving seat, but I found the wipers mesmerising as I seemed to be peering through a Jackson Pollock painting on glass.  The halo effect around traffic lights and car headlamps and taillights, coupled with the sparkling bits of twig cracking on the car gave the impression that November 5th was already upon us.

In fairness to Michael Fish, the gales, as I write have not reached the force of that October night 26 years ago.

Machine Operated Hoops

On 25th June I mentioned that all the garages had been broken into.  The locks need replacement.  The others are all owned by separate residents.  They will all deal with them individually, which seems a bit uneconomic to me.  However, as a tenant, I managed to get the agent to arrange for a locksmith to make contact.  He got me to photograph the lock and e-mail it to him so he could identify it. Garages and locksmiths We will now have a succession of individual locksmiths descending on Minstead.  There will be no consequent discount for bulk orders.

After this we had a drive.  First stop was Donna-Marie in Poulner for my haircut.  This chirpy pink young lady doesn’t appreciate silence.  Jackie sat in the waiting area and was drawn in to respond to the questions designed to open up conversation.  It was all very pleasant as long as you didn’t just come in for a quiet sit-down and snip.

When the answer to the enquiry about where Jackie had been camping turned out to be very close to where Donna lives, we were well away.  Naturally this led to camping stories.  My hairdresser was very amused by the tale of the keys reported in ‘An Uncomfortable Night’ posted on 26th August last year.

We then went for an accommodation window shop in Bashley Cross Road, New Milton.  The house we were aiming for was very attractive inside and out at the back, but we were intrigued by the lack of a front elevation photograph. Bashley Cross Road house The rather twee windows, including a bay concealed behind a hedge, may have contributed to this omission. Chicken farm Next door is a chicken farm.  We wondered how many cockerels may be on song in the mornings.  Alongside the farm is Ferndene Farm Shop.  Whether or not we will ever come back to look at the house properly (we have no money yet), we will revisit this excellent shop.  Five tills were inadequate to cater for all the people queuing for all kinds of fresh vegetables; meats and meat products; cheese; pickles; and much more, not to mention the vast array of plants outside beside the ample car park.  So many people  crowded around the shelves and cooling cabinets that I felt rather in the way and stepped back to allow Jackie to get on with her task of selection.  Wherever I stood I blocked someone’s passage.  Actually, as we arrived at the car park, I commented on the superb quality of the plants.  Since this shop is sited alongside a country road, all these shoppers would have driven here, possibly from some distance.  Pies from Ferndown Farm shopThe pies we sampled for lunch confirmed my impression that this is the best shop of its kind I have ever experienced.

Back home we turned our minds to windscreen insurance.   My post of 25th May featured Ryan of Screen-Care UK carrying out a repair necessitated by a crack left by a stone thrown up by an overtaking vehicle a few days earlier.  Never before had either Jackie or I been subjected to a cracked windscreen.  Nevertheless, a few days ago, another was inflicted.  An impatient Porsche on the M27, overtaking, came straight across our path; there was a sharp crack; and a minute horizontal dint no more than a couple of centimetres long appeared near the base of the glass on the driver’s side. As it was so small we didn’t think it worth repairing. Windscreen crackWithin the last few days, however, it has spread across most of the width of the window, and even sent a tributary skywards.

This second crack reminded Jackie that she has not yet received the cheque to cover Ryan’s express repair.  Maybe, she thought, she hadn’t let Churchill, the insurance company, know her new address?  She hadn’t.

So now there were three matters to be resolved.  To inform the insurers of the change of address; to follow up the cheque for £40; and to report the need for a replacement windscreen.  The vast improvements brought about by modern technology mean that you understand it will be a robot, albeit one sounding almost human, who will answer the phone and invite you to press a variety of numbers according to taste.  I would have said choice, but I have learned that what I am dealing with is a menu.  For this reason the use of an antique telephone sporting an actual dial is not to be recommended.  Of the four telephone numbers given with Churchill’s policy documents, Customer Care seemed a likely bet.  It was, if you were not an existing customer and wanted to be given a choice of policies for motor vehicles, houses, etc.  If you were already paying your premium you were offered no way of reaching the correct destination.  Claims Hotline was pretty similar.  Glass Repair and Replacement was a little better.  We were answered by a person.  When I’d finished explaining our three concerns, Clem informed me that I had come straight through to Autoglass.  He wasn’t Churchill.  Neither was he Screen-Care.  ‘How do I get to Churchill?’, seemed a natural question, to which he didn’t know the answer.  And Screen-Care was beyond his remit. But he could organise the replacement windscreen.

Our division of labour works like this:  I go through the machine operated hoops, then pass the phone to Jackie once a real live person appears.  The reason we do it this way is because I am marginally more sane by the time the obstacles have been overcome.  She found Clem very helpful and particularly reassuring in his explanation that the windscreen in its current condition would not shatter.  The job was booked for next week, and the £75 excess taken.

I was therefore forced to take up the other matters by e-mail.  You can possibly imagine the tenor of my message, written, of course, in Jackie’s name, so she will have the pleasure of the insurers’ response.

‘I Can’t Put A Ticket On That’

BlackbirdBlackbirds have begun to visit the bird feeder without flying off at the first sign of a human.  Until comparatively recently they would stand on the bay hedge beneath the goodies, patiently waiting for spillage from the other birds.  Now they take their own place at the table.

Jackie's garden

Leaving Jackie’s corner garden behind, we drove to The Firs for a weeding session.

There was a star shaped crack in the centre of the windscreen, fortunately well clear of the MOT failure position.  This had been inflicted last week by a stone thrown up by an overtaking vehicle on the motorway.  It needed repairing, so we stopped at Sainsbury’s superstore in Hedge End, where Screen-Care UK, in the form of Ryan, did an excellent. efficient, and friendly, job.  Screen-Care UKWatching the young man perform with a kind of injection needle, it occurred to me that his arms were quite accustomed to needles.


Weeding required in scented bedForget-me-nots flourished throughout The Firs garden, and the amount of weeding required was daunting, especially in last year’s new beds, now sprouting rich new grass.  The three of us worked on the beds and made some impact.

Weeded bedThe fledgeling robin we had seen last year was now an adult, and certainly appreciated the work on the scented bed. Robin This little bird was enjoying a few worms and seemed to be using grass to clean his teeth.

Geoff with eucalyptus crossI described the moving of the eucalyptus on 13th September last year; and the first useful purpose found for it on 5th of this month.  Elizabeth’s creative friend Geoff has been commissioned to make a cross with some more of this dead tree.  He showed us the result, which has a pleasing flowing shape.  He still has some of the wood.  Watch this space for any further artefacts.

Gardening over for the day, we repaired to Eastern Nights for the usual excellent meal; Cobra, and Tiger beer.  The conversation turned to classic cars Dad had owned, a Singer Hunter and a Daimler.  This led me to relate a story about Rob and his Jaguar 240 g which had been beautifully restored with a wonderful dark green paint job.  On one of the family visits to Newark, possibly twenty years ago, I found myself with my then brother-in-law in a shop in the town with the ‘marvellous toy ‘ parked outside  where it shouldn’t have been.  We emerged into the daylight to see a traffic policeman, pad in hand, scratching his head in bewilderment.  As Rob unlocked the vehicle, the man, full of wonder, asked ‘Is this yours?’.  When the owner replied in the affirmative, the constable said, with awe, ‘Well, get it out of here.  I can’t put a ticket on that!’.