Various Stages Of Life

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The experts on the antiques programme Bargain Hunt, which we generally watch at lunchtime, tell us that silver items should not be polished, for that activity eventually obliterates the hallmarks. Many antique book dealers also believe that uncut book pages should be left in their pristine condition because taking a knife to them reduces their value.

This poses the question whether treasures are to be preserved in figurative amber and never used, or to be enjoyed for what they are

Count Morin, Deputy 1

I had no qualms about taking a sharp kitchen knife to the pages of

Count Morin, Deputy cover

a delightfully told political fable.

It is always interesting to speculate on who has read an old book, or indeed whether it has been read at all. In the old days when books were still well made to last, the pages were often joined at the edges and required cutting, as indicated above, in order to read them. So, if, as in this 1921 publication, you found uncut pages, you knew no-one else’s fingers had left their marks on the virginal leaves. It is such a pleasure to know that you were the first, and gives you a responsibility to take great care of your chosen treasure.

Although this slender little volume from The Bodley Head is illustrated throughout, I have chosen to restrain any impulse to scan the internal pages; because straining the spine to flatten the book in the scanner seems too high a price to pay; and because the woodcuts don’t appeal to me, as they display the heaviness I associate with Black Forest carving, thus denying the elegance of the text in translation by J. Lewis May.

Wood Pigeon and Owl

Without our double glazing I may have been able to eavesdrop on this avian conversation through the sitting room window.

My contribution to the general garden maintenance of the day was to hold the steps and otherwise assist The Head Gardener in retraining clematises at the front.

Jackie reflected training clematis

This photograph was executed with one hand on the steps, and the other on the camera.

Clematis

Clematises such as this one don’t yet need such mountaineering feats to support them;

Violas in hanging basket

and the hanging baskets are within easy reach.

Bird's nest

While tidying her containers behind the shed, Jackie has found a nest from which the chicks have hedged and flown without our knowing it was there.

Thalictrum

She has also found the thalictrum’s true element in the Cryptomeria Bed.

Shady Path

Visible in the Dragon Bed in the centre of this Shady Path view,

Peony

we have a new peony bloom.

Phantom Path

This view along The Phantom Path leads us to the Rose Garden,

Rose Garden entrance

up the entrance of which Madame Alfred Carière and Summer Wine are speedily making their way;

Rose Jacqueline du Pré

and within, Jacqueline du Pré displays various stages of life.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious chicken jalfrezi with egg fried rice. She drank Hoegaarden, and I drank more of the Fleurie.

Down The Lane

This morning I wandered through the garden, down Downton Lane and into Roger’s field and back.

View towards patio fro Waterboy

The red Japanese maple is now coming into leaf, and we may soon have to refill the Waterboy’s shell.

Clematis Montana

The clematis Montana, retrained eighteen months ago, now festoons the dead tree;

Tulip

and different, delicate, tulips are bursting into life.

Dandelions

Dandelions currently claim the lane’s verges,

Primulas

where, soon, cow parsley will swamp primulas.

Hoverfly

On this ivy leaf, I think, is a hoverfly masquerading as a wasp.

Crows and crop fertilising

I exchanged waves with the friendly farmer as, attracting the usual avian entourage,

crop fertilising 1

he drove up and down fertilising his field, with a backdrop of Christchurch Bay.

Downton Lane

The oak trees are producing plumage. In the bottom right of this picture can be seen another amenable gentleman,

Paving and sandPaving

one of the staff of Transform Paving, working on the drive of number 23.

Grass bed

After lunch, I rendered token assistance to The Head Gardener in replenishing and redistributing soil, then cut the grass. The bed here demonstrates the soil rejuvenation process. To the left, clog clay soil has been removed and placed where it doesn’t matter much, then replaced by all-purpose compost. That to the right is, as yet, untreated. Anyone with a better knowledge than mine will recognise a self-seeded mimulus from last year in the left-hand section. They obviously do well there. That is why the wheelbarrow contains more of these plants, to be inserted tomorrow.

Wood pigeon

For the whole time we sat in the rose garden with our pre-dinner Hoegaarden and cabernet sauvignon, a big fat wood pigeon warbled his contribution to our conversation. Or perhaps he was simply calling to his mate.

There was plenty of last night’s menu for us to come back for more this evening.

Happy Christmas, Mum

A wood pigeon’s plaintive mating call filled the air this mild morning. When, at mid-morning, he ceased his mournful cry, it seemed to be more to do with the steady downpour of rain that set in for the day, than to do with his luck having changed.

Jackie and I made a start on Christmas cards, and, Ferndene Farm Shop having sold out,  bought a tree at Redcliffe Nurseries.

Jackie, Ron, Helen, Bill and ShellyBill, Helen. Shelly, Jackie, Derrick

This afternoon we joined Shelly and Helen and their husbands Ron and Bill, for the annual laying of a wreath on the sisters’ mother’s plot in the Woodland Burial Ground at Walkford. Rain poured down all the time. We had a few words, then wished Mum a Happy Christmas and repaired to Shelly and Ron’s nearby home where we enjoyed sandwiches, pork pie, canapés, cakes, mince pies, mulled wine, red and white wine, and coffee. We reminisced into the evening. I was still wet through when we returned home at about 7.30.

There was a general agreement that Mum Rivett would have questioned our sanity in weathering such elements.

Further Fox Activity?

Not having quite enough time this morning to reach the Lyndhurst surgery on foot, I set off three quarters of an hour ahead of Jackie, who followed and collected me as I walked past Sinefield on Forest Road. Bournemouth Road She delivered me to the doc’s in good time.

My appointment with Professor Lyon-Maris was to check on the success or otherwise of his  freezing the wart off my face.  This man is not my own GP, whose name I can’t remember anyway, but when keeping an appointment with him I have to be careful not to ask for the popular variety of potato, good for mashing, I believe, Maris Piper.  He is, however, the wart expert.  Well, I suppose someone has to be.  What happened today was I was first of all seen by a medical student who confirmed that there was no sign of the former offending parasite.  I asked him to have a look at what I think is something similar on the back of my left shoulder.  He wondered whether it appeared the same as the other one.  A reasonable thought, but I had to say I couldn’t see behind my left shoulder and I hadn’t thought of using a mirror.  In truth I was unaware of it unless my hand happened to stray in its direction; and it was completely painless except when I tried to pick it off and it tended to bleed a little and feel a bit like a pinprick.  It is easier to dig out a dandelion.

Michael, my friendly student, then had to report to the Prof and present his findings.  The poor chap had to do this in front of me.  He stood up quite well to the third degree.  My blind diagnosis was the correct one, and an appointment was made for the freezer.

We went on to The Firs where we continued the gardening tasks begun two days ago. Primroses I emptied the oldest compost bin and spread the contents over beds weeded by Jackie and Elizabeth.  Buried deep in the last of the rich earthy material produced in the last two years was a cooked, boneless, joint of pork, as fresh and odourless as if it had been kept in cold storage for the winter.  Speculating about the likelihood of a nocturnal raid on a farmhouse kitchen; a journey to The Firs similar to the one taken with golf balls; the soft mouth of a cat carrying a kitten; and a digging party clambering over the walls of the bin, we came to the conclusion that this was evidence of further fox activity.

The newest bin was rather overflowing after the addition of Sunday’s grass cuttings. Pansies I therefore siphoned off some of them to begin this year’s heap.  Already there was considerable heat emanating from them.

We worked in comparative silence after the buzz of the first Saturday afternoon conducive to tipping out the populace from the warmth of their homes.  Today it was just us and the birds.  There must have been some other small creatures about, for a buzzard circled overhead, occasionally gliding on the thermals.  There is always a biplane threading its way across the sky.  Blackbirds were gathering nest building materials. Woodpigeon on Beehive A wood pigeon blended in well with an old wooden beehive.  Others gathered pickings from the recently spread compost.  The difference in flight of these two avian species I find fascinating.  The pigeon lumbers off with ungainly flapping, often looking as if it won’t make it to its perch.  The blackbird swoops with curving elegance and much more economy of movement, venturing no higher than its chosen target, and giving the appearance of hedge-hopping.

Edging tilesMy final task today was trimming the edges of the remaining flower beds and further embedding edging tiles laid in place by Jackie last autumn.

Tonight’s meal, back at home, was Jackie’s delicious roast pork looking so like the contents of the foxes’ winter larder that I was tempted to ring Elizabeth and ask her to check the compost heap.  I thought, however, that probably wouldn’t demonstrate much appreciation of the chef’s efforts.  The second course was an excellent Aldi plum pie.  With this, I finished the Carta Roja and Jackie drank Hoegaarden.