Mud On the Road

we're about to go shopping in Salisbury...

Unripen At Home

Unripening At Home

Apple picking at The Leckford Estate
   I can't see the morning mists of September without being  reminded of the fortnight I spent picking apples a few years ago in the orchards of the nearby Leckford Estate - Mother ship and HQ of the mighty Waitrose.

     I was paid as a piece worker - per filled crate of apples, approved and ticked off by our gang master - though I don't think she called herself that.

     For the life of me, I can't remember the exact pounds and pennies per crate, but I do know it was considerably less than the minimum wage and that it took me two and a half days to get up to the kind of speed and rhythm by which I could fill more than one crate in an hour and thereby hope to make the desired £6.20 - or whatever the minimum wage was back then - for my 60 minutes of non-stop labour.

Afternoon in Udderland

Posted by Deborah Courtnell
 Afternoon in Udderland

All together now
I've never seen this before
Sometimes, to take your mind off things,  you have to get up in the morning and get the hell out of Dodge: feast your eyes on something new, something you've never seen before.
     So...last Saturday, the day after the day before which was the day we had our beloved Boxer put to sleep.. Shedley took me to the Romsey Show, an outing which I now think of, fondly as, 'Our Afternoon in Udder-land.

     I'd never been to an agricultural show before and, as a half-hearted and unconvinced listener to The Archers on Radio 4, I had wondered from time to time what does go down at such shows? Would there be bonfires and the burning of wicker men? Would there be the selling of wives, Casterbridge Style? Ancient rites involving goats and cider and lichen?  Would there, heaven forfend,  be Morris Dancing?

Good-bye Cally

Picture by Ben e.c.
Sweet Darling Cally
     The blissful Summer, quite unlike any English Summer in recent years, is finally over.

        I seem to have spent much of it pottering about in the garden, or lying on my belly in the long grass up at Stockbridge Down, photographing butterflies, usually with a boxer dog or two in tow.

     Even a photographer as amateur as me needs an assistant and Cally, that most matriarchal mother of our younger boxers, is far and away the superior of the three when it comes to that role.

     Cally understands the art of lounging. She knows how to take it slow. Unlike George she knows not to stick her big Boxerly snout into the picture or lick my Carl Zeiss lens. And unlike Myrtle, Cally understands that butterflies are flighty and easily startled and do not want to be pawed and definitely do not want to be eaten.

     The most docile and cautious of dogs, Cally is a big, placid, gentle girl blessed with a thick pelt of velvety soft fur. On the marsh she's like a slow moving mobile shed giving anything she mistrusts or suspects -  a parked bicycle, a tree in the wrong place, a duck - a very, very wide berth. 

Mountain of Broke-Back

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

Mountain of Broke-Back

     If the Americans are terrified of getting a National Health Service like ours then we are terrorised right back by the spectre of a  privatised health system like theirs. 

     It's no surprise to me that the Competition Commission has charged UK private hospital chains, HCA, Spire, BMI, Nuffield and Ramsay with operating a monopoly and charging patients over and above the cost of the services they provide by £200m. A forced sell-off of some 20 hospitals now looks likely. 

      Unlike our European neighbours we pay extortionate prices for private health care here and that includes dentistry and eye care and with treatment like hip replacements deemed 'elective' for what is a very painful and degenerative condition, it's small wonder people are persuaded to fly to e.g. France and get the surgery done there for a fraction of the UK private price tag.

     It's cheaper, for example,  to drive to an airport, park, fly to Spain for the day (Ryanair or easyJet obviously) get blood tests and a mammogram done in a private clinic and fly home again in time for supper,  than it is to drive up the road to your nearest private hospital. I know because I've done both.

     A current price for just the mammogram, as advertised online by London clinic Pall Mall Medical is  £320. 

Season of Myrtle

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

Season of Myrtle & Blackberries & Vet Bills

    I suppose there's a kind of serendipity in the fact that the Myrtle-dog has come into season at the same time as the blackberries.

     I'm walking her up and down Marsh Court Lane - on the lead and away from other dogs - which means I get to pick and eat the first blackberries as they ripen; blackberry bushes proliferating as they do along Marsh Court Lane.

     At the moment it's the odd one here and there but fairly soon I expect to be staggering back to the homestead gorged and sated and terrifying Shedley with my black-stained mouth and teeth and black vampire-juice dribbling down my chin and that annoying and deeply unattractive pips-between-teeth look.

Stockbridge World War One Graves

  The Project:

Ten young airmen, nine of them from Australia, Canada and South Africa, lie buried in a Hampshire country churchyard in the village of Stockbridge, UK. They died locally, killed in training accidents in what turned out to be the closing months of World War One.

     The fact that they never saw live action makes their sacrifice all the more poignant. I am currently researching the background of each man, where he came from, the family he left behind, with a view to bringing all of their stories to life and putting faces to the names carved on a headstone, far from home. If you have any news or useful information please do get in touch.


View of Old St Peter's Churchyard from the road

The four of ten graves to the left of the churchyard path


1. Second Lieutenant W.E. Buchan, RFC

2nd Lt. W E Buchan, RFC

Name                                   Buchan, W.E.

Rank                                     Second Lieutenant

Service No.                         TBC

Deceased                             09/03/1918

Age                                       TBC 

Service/Regiment             Royal Flying Corps

Service Country                 United Kingdom


Location of Grave