Back home in Minstead the coal tits on their feeder made up for the elusiveness of the small birds in Sigoules. After a morning spent preparing my papers for Philip, my accountant, I took a later than usual ford loop walk. Upper drive was looking resplendent in the mid-afternoon sun. The deciduous trees, not yet in leaf, displayed their shapely naked limbs. Elsewhere, hedgerows and other, smaller, trees were producing young, yellow-green, budding leaves. Daffodils still thrust their way through thorny hedges. Susan Hill, in ‘The Magic Apple Tree’, her record of a year in the country which I began reading yesterday, calls spring a ‘yellow season’. After the masses of dandelions, marigolds, and buttercups in and around Sigoules, and now us, too, being treated to its awakening, I see what she means. On this very pleasant afternoon there were even a few brief April showers.
A car that sped past me on the very narrow road to the ford, barely wide enough for a pony to straddle it, came to a sudden halt around the next bend. Hearing its approach I had stepped smartly to the side. No such courtesy was offered by the seven or eight ponies that idly blocked the road. They ambled up and down and from side to side investigating possible fodder. The driver just had to wait. Also waiting, in a side road, was a tourist driver who wasn’t sure what to do. I gave him the benefit of my vast, all of five months, experience, and helped him and his passengers on their way. Mind you, I was very wary about passing the rear end, by which was all the space that was available, of the first horse. Having negotiated this back passage safely, I arrived, after walking up from the ford, at what passes for the main road through the village.
Susan Hill speaks of cattle being sent into Buttercup Field at the beginning of May, having been sheltered for the winter. Obviously, in the New Forest the freedom to roam comes a bit earlier. This was brought home to me as I started up the hill through Minstead. A strange lowing sound from behind me alerted me to the fact that I was being followed up the road. Indeed, the only sense I could make of the increasingly agitated, closer and closer, mooing was that the tagged cow wanted me out of the way. I soon realised that it was keen to join its companions who had taken possession of the road and more or less covered Seamans Corner. At a rough estimate half the bovine population of the New Forest now blocked the roads and stripped what was left of the foliage. As I approached the Corner, apart from the odd cow occupying the usual headless stance, pausing only to plop their own recycled fodder offerings, they were all following me up the road. It was just a wee bit disconcerting. I must admit that I did occasionally take a sneaky look to make sure there was no pizzle in sight. Had I seen one, I’m not sure what I would have done. Watching tradesmen negotiating these natural obstacles I often wonder how their time-sheets are affected.
Jackie produced her usual excellent arabbiata with mixed pasta for our evening meal. I had cherry pie for afters. Jackie drank Peroni while I had some Marques de Montino reserva rioja 2007.