In more ways than one, this was a dull day.
I spent the morning completing work on my backlog of e-mails. One was from my excellent accountant, Philip Friede, BA, FCA, of Hatton Garden, asking for the usual documentation and financial information required for the completion of my annual tax return. I promised him that I would put these in the post today.
That was the afternoon taken care of. Had I done any filing at all this year I could have saved myself a little time. But I hadn’t. By the skin of my teeth I posted the package with half an hour to spare.
As I set off to walk round the sunless stubble field to the dark and dingy wood, the rain set in. Nothing daunted, I braved the drizzle.
Grasses and nettles on the perimeter had escaped the harvester.
The field looked positively inviting from the gloom of the woodland path.
It has come to something when the only bright moment in the day came from the bulb in the lampshade above my head just as I was nearing the completion of my administration. A flash and it was extinguished, and the lights fused. The energy-saving fitting had burned out, its head and thorax severed from its rear left in the socket. I wrapped a piece of kitchen towel around the body which was still very hot. This was easily extracted. Only then did I realise that, like a stinging bee, the business end remained in place. Anyone who has met the same problem will know that its removal is a little more tricky, especially as the stinger protruded. That required a climb onto a chair to obtain a better grip. After this procedure, I fitted a new bulb, raised the relevant lever in the fuse box, and finished the interrupted task.
Mr Pink provided the fish and chips, Garner’s the pickled onions, Freshona the pickled gherkins, and Smedley’s the mushy peas, upon which we dined this evening. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Linoti Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2013.
It was Homer in The Odyssey who first described dawn as having ‘rosy-‘ or ‘rose-tinted fingers’. This morning we saw how apt his description was. There is, of course, as much controversy about the identity of this ancient Greek, or even Greeks, as there is about our own William Shakespeare’s. Something else the two have in common is that their phrases have become part of international language without speakers necessarily knowing from where or from whom they originated. I expect you can all think of examples. For starters, here is one I learned only this morning: ‘Manners maketh man’. We must have all heard this one, but where does it come from?
‘William of Wykeham’, according to Barrie Haynes, ‘was not a bad lad’. This is how my friend began his ‘Between Ourselves’ column of 22nd July 2009, in a Lincolnshire newspaper, Target Series. He then goes on, among other pieces of information, to tell us that William founded both Winchester College and New College, Oxford. The phrase quoted above has been adopted as their motto by each of these educational establishments, for it was their founder who coined it. Thank you, Barrie, I didn’t know that.
Barrie’s column ran for 76 weekly issues from 2009 to 2010. It is entertaining, sometimes provocative, and a mine of information. I am slowly working my way through the collection he sent me. I am not tempted to skip anything. The man is a delight, and I hope he soon succumbs to my pressure on him to start writing a blog.
During an hiatus in the work of Sam, The Lady Plumber, who fitted our dishwasher this morning, I walked the route through Roger’s fields, along the side of the wood, left along the bus route, and back up Downton Lane, pausing as usual to admire the cottage garden on the corner. Cosmos, marigolds, and nicotiana were the plants I could identify.
A crow, with another in the distance, tracked the hang glider that reflected the deep blue of the Solent, visible from the fields at our end of the lane.
As I walked along the side of the wood, my face tickled by spider’s strands stretching across the footpath, I felt thankful that I was not a fly, one of which basked in comparative safety on a dead branch.
To return to Sam, she is not phased by any problems she encounters. On each occasion she has worked on our plumbing, she has found the need for another piece of equipment, and has happily gone out and shopped for it. Today the pipe leading from the dishwasher to the water supply was too short, so she bought an extension. Sam is also willing to sort out other problems. Whilst testing the machine she spotted a leak in one of the sinks, unscrewed the elbow and found a broken washer. This meant another trip to the suppliers. She had other jobs to complete first, but undertook to come back to us afterwards, which she promptly did. Matching the washers had been a difficult task, so Sam was justifiably triumphant when she had fixed the new one to her satisfaction.
Work continued somewhat sporadically in the back drive. We are slowly getting there.
The Happy Wok at Ashley once again provided our evening repast, liquid refreshment being Hoegaarden and Bishop’s Finger.
This morning I walked along Hordle Lane, turning left into Stopples Lane. I had hoped to walk across the fields and woods to Peter’s Farm, but could not find my way through. In the spring, I must have traversed a gap in the hedge which is now overgrown. Today, I followed the fenced off wood until I reached the houses, then retraced my steps.
Just before the paddock I heard, then saw, a spire of water, casting a rainbow, shooting straight up into the tree above. Upon investigation, during which I was liberally sprinkled, I noticed that a valve had, perhaps deliberately, become disconnected. I knocked at the door of Yeatton Cottage and alerted a resident who undertook to contact the water board. This young woman told me that the large horses did not belong to her and her husband, although the field and a Shetland pony did. One of the horses, sheltering under an oak, was well camouflaged.
I twice met a jogger, and gave her a running tip, for which she was grateful.
The verges on both sides of Hordle Lane are littered with debris from food to go. Why, I often wonder, do people come to such a beautiful spot and chuck their rubbish out of their car windows?
Impatiens grew in the wood. Perhaps someone had dumped their garden refuse into this area, with a much more pleasing result. A natural insect hotel created by the section of a dead tree was open for guests.
Soon after this I began the last push in preparing the rose garden. This involved the two of us transplanting a straggly rosemary bush and a cluster of crocosmia. Digging over the soil is likely to take some considerable time. The small area I worked on today, especially that which had been covered by paving for so many years, had the consistency of iron, and contained copious amounts of couch grass and its sinuous trailing roots. I unearthed another slab of concrete and a few more bricks. Just as I was thinking that I would probably find more before the job was done, I discovered another row of the concrete embedded on its side. Having been unable to shift even the first slab, in the absence of my Jack Russell substitute, and as Jackie was calling me in to share a six-egg omelette, stuffed with onions and mushrooms, for a late lunch, I decided to call it a day. She said there was no rush to complete this task which could be done ‘at [my] leisure – if that’s the right word to use’.
This afternoon we were visited by Sam, The Lady Plumber, who came to look at the work needed on our guest bathroom before Louisa, Errol, Jessica, and Imogen come for the weekend. Sam(antha) was friendly, quick, and efficient. Maybe she could have fixed this morning’s valve. She will do our work on Thursday.
This evening I lit and tended a bonfire. Many more will be required before the produce of four months of sawing, pruning and clipping has been burnt.
Jackie’s luscious chicken curry and savoury rice was what we enjoyed for dinner. It was followed by lemon and lime merangue pie and evap in her case, and lemon drizzle cake and custard in mine. I finished the chianti, and she drank some Hoegaarden.