An Enforced Eviction



Early this morning the sun shone on the wall-bound wisteria aiming for the en suite bathroom.

Raindrops on tulip Diamond Jubilee 1

Lingering early raindrops rolled around the Diamond Jubilee tulips,

Raindrops and fly on tulip Diamond Jubilee

onto which a thirsty fly dropped for a drink.

RhododendronRhododendron and pieris

Another rhododendron, leading the eye to the pieris on the grass, is beginning to bloom.

The day dulled over as it progressed. We spent the morning working on the garden. Jackie did some general planting and weeding, and sprinkled chicken pellets over the newly composted beds. Before you imagine otherwise, we do not keep chickens. The pellets come in a large bucket and are marketed as manure.


Vinca makes an attractive ground cover, but it does have a tendency to sprawl, take root, and make life very uncomfortable for bed-mates. So it has been for the Weeping Birch Bed. I therefore concentrated my efforts on that. Fast approaching is the warmer weather when a thinner duvet will be in order.

Ladybird on vincaSnail and ladybird on vinca leavesSnail on vinca leaf

A black-spotted ladybird and a tiny striped snail suffered an enforced eviction as I ejected  their shelter.

Brick pillar

Our stone urns and other containers are mounted on dry brick pillars. The ground under one of these subsided a bit last autumn and it fell over. We spent the last few minutes before lunch levelling a space and beginning to rebuild the column.

This evening we dined on succulent roast pork and apple sauce, roast sweet and savoury potatoes, with al dente carrots, cauliflower, and runner beans; followed by rice pudding and blackberry jam.  I drank Reserve des Tuguets madiran 2012, and Jackie drank Hoegaarden.

Before The Thunderstorm


For the best part of the day there were two consistencies in the weather: it was very warm and it was dry. This meant the overnight rain soon evaporated. The sun, however, vied for dominance with the clouds.

Sack barrow

Stopping on the way to buy a necessary sack barrow from Milford Supplies, we drove to Molly’s Den in search of two more stone urns for the rose garden. We were successful and installed them into position.

Planter in wrought iron

We also bought a red-painted wrought iron planter.

Front garden

Early on, in the front garden,

Tulip and raindrops

tulips’ in-built umbrellas protected their stamens.

Clematis Montana with bee

Bees preferred the pollen from the clematis Montana. If you can’t spot this insect filling its thigh sacs, you may choose to enlarge the image,

Bee on clematis Montana

or opt for this one instead.


Pearly drops slipped from aquilegias.

Viburnum plicatum 2Viburnum plicatum 1

The viburnum plicatum had benefited from the warmth and the rain.


Two years ago, outside the utility room door, stood the stump of a wisteria that had clearly been heavily pruned, we imagine to make way for the plumbing for the en-suite bathroom above. It has responded to nurturing the first year, and training the next, to produce a fine drapery which should increase even more next year.


Another stump, this time on the grass patch, has recovered to produce a pieris that now shows signs of feeling crowded by the Castle Bench.


Offspring of the erigeron, outside the French windows to the sitting room, have been adopted by various other parts of the garden.

Urn 1

Urn 2 (Jackie reflected)

Just before the thunderstorm hit at 4.30, after Jackie had planted up the urns, I joined her for cold drinks and a rest in the rose garden.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s prize chicken jalfrezi, now nicely maturing; meat samosas, egg fried rice, onion bhajis, and parathas. I drank more of the Cotes du Rhone, while The Cook abstained.

Suburban Terraced Housing

Anne stayed the night and we got up early for coffee and seeing her off back to London before her return to Athens.

From ‘The Royal Horticultural Society’s Encyclopaedia of Plants and Flowers’, Jackie has established that yesterday’s unknown shrub is a Siberian lonicera tatarica, or Tartarian honeysuckle, regarded as a pernicious weed in North America. I amended the post accordingly.

Another four tons of gravel was tipped onto the back drive this morning. Hopefully that will be enough to complete the layer.


A light blue wash would not have been our choice of cladding for the outside of the house, but it must have been an improvement on the bright pink we understand preceded it, and we are becoming accustomed to it. I have to admit that it sets off the wisteria on the back wall rather well.

Sticky willy shadowDandelion clocks

Later this afternoon I walked a few yards down Downton Lane, where Sticky Willy or Lady’s Bedstraw cast its shadow on on the hedgerows as it began to scale the other plants; and the earliest dandelions are now demonstrating that time is running out for them.

Before that I had scanned a few more slides from November 1972, from my stay at Blackheath. On a walk, Michael posed on a park bench, while Becky was too interested in whatever she was examining to take any notice of the camera.Michael 11.72Becky 11.72 0004

Michael, Matthew & houses11.72Matthew and Becky and backs of houses 11.72Wherever there is a grassy bank it is imperative for children either to roll down it or to climb up it. The one we came across must have been too steep for a roll, but Michael and Matthew ascended it. Matthew and Becky enjoyed peering through the railings of the terraced housing, probably speculating about who lived there.Backs of houses 11.72

Land, even in the suburbs of London, is scarce. If you are rich enough you can buy a large house with plenty of space, but for ordinary people, various generations of developers have built rows and rows of these terraces, each with their own small plot of land. Although London had been growing since the Londinium of the Romans, it was the Victorians who began the serious urban sprawl.  For example, after the advent of the railway, they built the southern part of Wimbledon, where I bought my first house. Each new wave has brought its own architectural style, extending what is now known as Greater London.

Taken from YouTube, The London Evolution Animation charts the growth of the capital from Roman times to 2013. I think it repays taking up the 7 minutes playing time.

This evening Jackie’s superb savoury rice accompanied Lidl’s splendid rack of ribs in barbecue sauce, for our dinner. I imbibed more of the Merlot and Jackie drank sparkling water.

‘Not Two Peoples…….’

When you wake up at 6 a.m. in an all-electric house to find you have a power cut and cannot make your morning coffee; and you have often passed a cafe in New Milton that professes to open at 6.30, there is only one thing to do. We did it. Dopily, Jackie drove us to Sunny Side Up Cafe. When, on entering, you learn that the big breakfast contains Ferndene Farm Shop sausages, suddenly coffee doesn’t seem enough. Jackie enjoyed her poached egg on toast, but I just had to have the full works.Breakfast

And I could read about the Test match in yesterday’s Sun. Moeen Ali, permitted by the English Cricket Board to wear wrist bands bearing the legend ‘Save Gaza – Free Palestine’, had been stopped from doing so by the International Cricket Council. Steve Harmison, M.B.E., former England fast bowler has been quoted as saying that the spinner’s action on a cricket field was dangerous. Perhaps so, but Gaza has been an insurmountable problem for generations. Even without being able to unravel the rights and wrongs of the situation, I don’t see why he shouldn’t have made his statement.Unloading

Through the cafe window we watched the driver of a huge articulated lorry tidily loosening his load for delivery to Travis Perkins. We had watched him drive past the depot, presumably because he could not negotiate the left turn, and on to the next roundabout where he could backtrack and execute a right turn from our side of the road. Others were queuing, awaiting the store’s opening for their reception. From the top of the pillar box a POST OFFICE sign has been removed. Our home therefore has a shared history with the eating place, as does the Upper Dicker Village Shop, and no doubt many others of our smaller post offices which have been lost.


UnknownHollow branchI took a walk along the maize field and collected more flint stones, completing the head gardener’s path on my return. I blame my Dad for the visual pun, because I thought of him as I peered down a hollow tree branch lodged in the hedgerow. One day when I was very small my father appeared in the doorway with one cardboard centre of a toilet roll held up to each eye, thus forming a pair of makeshift binoculars.  Somewhat mystified, I gazed up in amazement.

‘Not two peoples’, said Dad. ‘Two peepholes’.  Yabba dabba doo!

He would have been proud of his grandson Matthew’s offering related on 31st August 2012.Bee on convolvulus

Bee in morning gloryBetween the tyre tracks on the path alongside the field, bees worked their way along ground covering convolvulus. Back home, another burrowed into a morning glory.

Compost wallJackie and wisteriaThis afternoon I dug up and stacked more of the heavy concrete blocks and a few bricks from the kitchen garden, and Jackie completed her compost wall, then pruned and trained the wisteria.

Red Admiral undersideRed AdmiralThis evening’s Red Admiral butterfly perched on a solar light, presumably waiting for it to come on in order to enhance its colour. It is of a duller, more orange, variation than, and consequently perhaps envious of, its redder and brighter relative seen yesterday.

We dined on Hordle Chinese Take Away’s delicious offerings. Jackie drank T’sing Tao beer and I finished the Cotes du Rhone.

Necrotising Fasciitis

La Baigneuse de ValpinconYesterday evening I read Charles Saumarez Smith’s 2010 introduction to The Folio Society’s edition of Kenneth Clark’s 1956 study, ‘The Nude’. Later, I began the book itself. As is my wont, I will comment on the work when I have finished reading it, but here I reproduce the binding illustration. Both the back and front boards are illuminated with Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ magnificent 1808 oil painting, La Baigneuse de Valpincon.

This morning Jackie and I jointly undertook some more seriously scary pruning at the far end of the path by the empty house. Sports had to be removed from a euphorbia; yet another bay tree and mature suckers from an as yet unidentified  shrub had to be brought to earth; and a pyracantha and viburnum much reduced. Finally, we removed some dead sections from the snake bark maple. The log pile for winter burning on the stove increases by the day.

Against the window wall of what is now our utility room, an adjunct to the library, a mature wisteria had been cut right down to a stump, presumably in order to facilitate the insertion of the bathroom of the master suite. WisteriaHealthy new shoots have been burgeoning all summer. The first blooms have now arrived.

Early this evening, our friends Heather and Brian came for a visit and to collect books to be sold at a Charity Fun Day at Billericay Rugby Club on 3rd August, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is in aid of the Lee Spark Foundation which engages in research and disseminating information about Necrotising Fasciitis. Commonly termed the flesh eating disease, this is a condition caused by bacteria which can rapidly strip the affected areas of flesh of a human being to the bone within a couple of days, and is quite commonly fatal. Lee Spark was 19 when he died of the disease. Here is an extract on the event from Heather’s Facebook page: 10501898_10152612097232975_5661296236139084066_n

”held to support The Lee Spark NF Foundation who help with research and raise awareness of Necrotising Fasciitis known as the flesh eating bug. Their mission is to educate and inform health professionals and individuals how severe streptococcal infections may develop into necrotising fasciitis. To help them recognise the early warning signs and symptoms and to generate continued support for research into the prevention of NF.If you know me you know I went through hell for 2 years nearly losing my life and a leg to this debilitating life changing horror.

So many people suffer much worse than me and so many people lose their lives to this horrendous infection. I’m one of the lucky ones.

Should be a great day loads to do, plus craft stalls, music etc. Ill be there with a second hand book and DVD stall. Please come and support us. If you can’t support please consider a donation.”

Having loaded our visitors’ car with several boxes of books, we all four went on to dine at The Jarna where we enjoyed the usual excellent fare, and, for Jackie and me, Cobra beer. A very pleasant evening was continued at our home.

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:Tulip - delicateTulip - dark red                                                             A heavily pruned wisteria lies, at present, beneath the pergola.Wisteria It will, no doubt, once more festoon the wooden structure.Ajuga with beeBee on ajuga

Furry orange bees are lapping up the ajugas.

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

Library shelvesAfterwards, 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.

Jackie’s Post

Woodpecker and baby blackbirdPossibly because I don’t have the required patience to sit motionless for hours awaiting their arrival, I cannot get near the woodpeckers that feed from Jackie’s dish.  She, however, has been studying them for a couple of weeks from her kitchen hide, ‘through a glass [clearly]’. Woodpecker, siskin and baby blackbird This morning, determined, she sat with the camera and was rewarded, first with the sight of one of the woodpeckers shooing off a baby blackbird, tits and a siskin; secondly of the siskin sneaking up on the other side of the feeder out of eyeshot of the bully;Woodpecker and thirdly of the rival woodpecker sending the first one packing.  The young blackbird, not quite sure what to do when it does make it to the dish, wanders around on the box hedge and the grass, picking up scraps.

Squrrel approachingThe squirrel described on 3rd of this month continues regularly to strive to reach the dish. Squirrel under pots Bolder in his approach, he crawls under the raised pots to climb the hedge towards his goal, then follows the procedure outlined in that post, except that he now attempts to break his fall by clutching at the hedge during his unplanned descent.  This is less than successful.  He clutches at the edge, scrabbles a bit, then, legs frantically gyrating, flops to the ground, and settles for picking up the birds’ droppings. Squirrel leaving When sufficiently recovered, he is off across the lawn like a bat out of Hell. Squirrel making for birchMaybe, like Buster Keaton, he does all his own stunts.  The silent movie star was a more proficient acrobat.

Reluctantly leaving this scenario we made a shopping trip to Ringwood.


After lunch we were off to The Firs for a gardening session.  There was much weeding and watering to be done, but what took us there today was the sweet peas.  Last year’s were so successful that Elizabeth decided to buy some more for this year.  She found a specialist supplier who stocked no end of varieties and asked Jackie to suggest some she liked.  She chose four.  The seeds come in packets of ten.  Sweet peas in frameSome contained eleven.  Forty to forty four seemed a good round number.  My sister is one of those rare beings who gained pure maths and applied maths at A level GCE.  Even I know that if you buy seventeen different packets of seeds you will receive one hundred and seventy potential plants.  With a minimal number of extras that must round up to at least one hundred and eighty, a top score with three darts.  Elizabeth had not just gone over the top, she had achieved a triple top.

It took Jackie the best part of two days to plant the seeds in trays, and today was the day to begin planting them out.  The method chosen is to build a wigwam frame out of the carefully prepared bamboo shoots dug out of what is now the hot bed two years ago, and place three or four plants within each.  The job is not yet finished.  At that rate we will need a complete Native American village.Clematis Niobe Wisteria and chives Before she could even start on this task there was much other planting and watering to be carried out.

My task was weeding the stepping stone bed that had previously been an overgrown shrubbery.

Derrick 'lying down on the job'Unbeknown to me, she caught me ‘lying down on the job’.

Stepping stone bedThe whole garden is benefiting from the work we have put in.  Particularly pleasing is the large, old, wisteria on the pergola, which last year didn’t do much at all.  Jackie is excited at the progress of the clematis Niobe; and the numerous heuchera added to the existing ones last year are particularly enjoying the conditions. Huchera and pansiesPurple and blue floral arraangement Elizabeth likes blending colours, such as in a rather pleasing purple and blue arrangement.

Jackie may have been building tepee supports for the sweet peas, but I think it is evident that today’s is her post.

This evening we dined with Elizabeth at Eastern Nights in Thornhill, where we enjoyed the usual excellent meals, Cobra and Bangla beer.