Today was warmer and drier, but very cloudy as we set off in the car to The Firs. So prolific were the daisies on the verges of the A31 that I mistook swathes of them on the embankments bordering the Bentley by-pass for chalk outcrops. On one stretch of narrower country roads there was a cycle race taking place in the opposite direction to ours. The periodic clusters of cyclists combined with the frustration of drivers forced to follow them in slow convoys caused some of the cars to cross the double white lines in order to overtake the aspirants of the yellow jersey; in turn requiring Jackie to hit the brakes. This was on and near the road between West Meon and its crossroads near the bikers’ cafe. All along this stretch are permanent signs saying THINK BIKE. These were not the bikes we were meant to think about, but, serendipity or not, the route taken for the tour we were witnessing was appropriately labelled. Later on, for the last mile or two of our journey we experienced a similar need to approach our goal at a considerably reduced pace as we were stuck behind a horse drawn carriage, the second we had seen. As there was a fete in West End village we assumed this smartly decorated transport of a bygone age was destined for Elizabeth’s village centre. Other vehicles of a not quite so early age were two seater open topped sports cars bearing very old number plates. They always come out when the sun is shining, and at least it was making an effort today.
Now I have a conundrum. The narrower country roads sometimes present the appearance of straight-sided tunnels. Trees and shrubs at the roadsides seem to be vertical examples of the topiarist’s art, until at a certain height branches are free to stretch across the road, often interlacing in the middle. My question is, what brings about the straight edges? I have seen only two possible explanations at quite different places and times. The first was a hedge-cutting vehicle in operation with a very high set of blades; the second a high-sided van possibly obliviously knocking off lower branches in its path. Is it either of these; a combination of the two; or something entirely different? Presumably it cannot be hot ashes from steam engines.
Having more or less arrived at our destination we visited Haskins Garden centre for a plentiful and varied salad in their excellent restaurant. This of course is fatal. Jackie has about as much chance of leaving a garden centre empty-handed as I have a bookshop. Although the car was already full of plants that she had gathered over the last fortnight, we just had to buy what she euphemistically called ‘a few’ more.
When we arrived at Elizabeth’s we were delighted to see the rose we had rescued and trained up an arch in the middle of the concrete ring that is all that remains of Mrs. Barbe-Baker’s summerhouse (post of 26th. May) was in full bloom. It had been blown down a second time two weeks ago when I was in France, and Jackie and Elizabeth had staked it up even more firmly.
Whilst digging in a new bed I was being stalked by a robin. They are of course territorial creatures who will fight fiercely for their plot. This one wouldn’t even wait for me to finish before staking its claim.
Our evening meal was taken at Eastern Nights in Thornhill. This, we have decided, is the best of the many curry houses in the area. Tonight there was the bonus of a very entertaining conversation taking place in the next cubicle. The comment which both had us in stitches and was printable was: ‘I’ve been coming her thirty years and it hasn’t improved.’ Jackie opined that it might therefore be time for the speaker to give the place a miss.