94. The Days Are Just Packed

If you look at the header (on the website) you’ll see this is a book title, of cartoons created by Bill Watterson. Although possibly considered books for children, they have a great deal of thought in them, as you’d expect when the two protagonists are called Calvin (a small boy with boundless imagination) and Hobbes (his toy tiger). I love them.

A short week this one, but life has been non-stop, even under lockdown. I was considering called this Post “The Birds” as we’ve had a wretched corvid trying to get through our windows. At 05.30. The first morning, I thought it was someone hammering on the door and could not work out what emergency would bring someone down to our place at that time of day. Once I woke up fully and realised it was someone hammering on the (first floor, west facing) window I sent JD to investigate. (Note to any American readers: the first floor is upstairs). He came back and told me it was a crow, which flew off when it saw him. An hour later it was at another window on the second floor (the attic). This hammering kept happening: it followed JD to the (south facing) bathroom then to the other end of the house on the ground floor. Scary. I’ve read something about crows being Messengers of the Gods or Harbingers of Doom or some such.

My mood was not lightened when JD said he didn’t think it was a crow, it had a yellow beak. Um, a blackbird was all I could think, a huge mutant blackbird. We do have Hinkley Point not far away after all. I know it’s not operational but who knows what experiments they are undertaking? Anyway, JD insisted that it was NOT a blackbird so I got the bird book out and looked at corvids and we settled on it being a rook. I’ve not been able to get a photo of it so you’ll have to use your imagination. Here’s a jigsaw I bought for the lockdown that I’ve just got around to, instead.

Andy Warhol’s “Flowers” jigsaw from the Tate

After the second disturbed morning action had to be taken. I’d read that hanging CDs would scare birds. I couldn’t hang them from anything so I stuck them on the window. There is a pear tree growing up that wall so we cut back the branches in case it was balancing on them. All that happened was that the next morning, The Bird showed its contempt all over the window. I’d also read that sticking clingfilm on the window would stop the reflection which was the cause of the attack. We couldn’t get access outside so improvised with a plastic lid. Here’s a shot of Day 3 (I think, lack of sleep means it could be Day 4). You can create the different stages in your mind’s eye.

How not to scare birds

This morning, still a hammering. I’m now sleeping through it but disturbed nonetheless. The latest action taken is in the next photo. I’m worried about the window glass, these are old windows so that glass is sometimes thinner than usual. You’ll have to wait until next time to know if this worked.

Will this tea towel work?

Enough bird talk. We had another visitor this week, a pal who had been out walking and was on her way home. Once again we kept a few feet apart but the dogs didn’t think this was necessary, this was one of their friends. Hugs all round for them. The next day, even more excitement, the window cleaners came! We’ve not seen them since before our Clipper adventure started last August. They had been off work for the main lockdown but were now able to clean the outside of the windows. This has had the downside of highlighting how mucky the windows are inside. Luckily, our cleaner is planning on coming back soon. She’s been bringing the odd food parcel for us on her way past but too early in the morning for us to catch up. We’ll need to devise a one-way system around the house to avoid meeting up.

SOME of my tomatoes

All the plants I potted on last week have survived both my rough handling and the lack of rain. Now, I may have got a bit carried away with the tomatoes, but in my defence, m’lud, I did not expect them all to germinate. My beetroot seeds certainly haven’t and I’ve always done really well with them. Thinking positively, we may be able to corner the UK market once imports stop, due either to Brexit (remember that?) or Covid-19.

Cocktails: last week we had Bitters as the topic. This week, it’s another bitter drink but only 25% as opposed to the 40% of the previous ones. The bottle size reflects this.

This week’s mystery ingredient: Campari!

In doing my research on this, for the first time I came across a reference to Covid-19. and what the company is doing to help. https://www.camparigroup.com/en/covid-19. The Campari group seem to be very active so go out and buy more! On entering the relevant part of the site I found that they also have Aperol in their stable (see Post 91 dated 9th May for that recipe). Campari, today’s drink, was created in 1860 using herbs and fruits in a secret recipe still in use today (I think I could cut-and-paste that phrase for many of our drink ingredients). The two classic cocktails utilising Campari are the Americano (no coffee involved) and the Negroni. Forget them. I went through my list and came up with a first pass selection of 18 possible cocktails. Tempted though I was with “Combustible Edison” (brandy, Campari and lemon juice) I decided not to tempt fate by encouraging you to play with fire. Literally. Think Christmas puddings and you’ll see where this is going. For those of you who do not have Christmas puddings, you are missing a real spectacle every year. Come back in six months and I’ll see if I can get a photo for you.

The first one I made is called Bitter Evan, I’m not sure why, but made it to remember friends we’ve not seen since the boats sailed from London. Mix 45 ml vodka with 15 ml Campari and top up with pink or red grapefruit juice. The first had some spiced vodka I’d made a couple of years ago, then as we had juice left, we had a second, with normal vodka. We managed to finish off the spiced vodka plus another bottle with about an inch at the bottom. At this rate we could finish off our bar by the end of the year. Here’s OBB enjoying their first glass.

Bitter Evan

I’d also put pomegranate juice on the shopping list. As JD managed to buy both juices, we’ve had two cocktails this weekend. The second was chosen because I thought the name reasonably appropriate, not quite quarantine but almost: Diva Quaranta. Mix 45 ml gin, 15 ml Campari, 30 ml pomegranate juice and 15 ml simple syrup (I used one I’d made a few weeks ago for another cocktail, with pear eau-de-vie, but I now cannot find that recipe, sorry). This was pretty strong so we only had one, while JD was preparing supper last night. Afterwards we managed to see the Crew Dragon fly (?) past in the night sky. If you’ve missed it, this is the first commercial manned space flight to the International Space Station, funded by Elon Musk’s SpaceX in conjunction with NASA. We watched the launch while eating and saw it pass us in the night sky a couple of hours later. Here’s an easy guide to it https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52840482.

Diva Quaranta

But, even more exciting than the cocktails and (maybe) Crew Dragon, I went out! On my own! In what is now the family car (formerly JD’s), as I don’t have one any longer. Thinking I’d be away for the year, I sold mine last August and haven’t driven since. When out I was not alert enough to take a photo so you’ll have to believe me when I say I drove into Castle Cary and went to the shops. I found out that you can now pay up to £45 using contact-less cards: last time I shopped it was £30. Both the car and I survived.

No lambs today, but here is a caterpillar I photographed. I thought it might be a Red Admiral as they are fluttering all over the plants but looking in my butterfly and moth book, it doesn’t appear to be. I’ll let you all see if you know before I reveal it.

93. The Darling Drinks of May

A long time ago, in a Galaxy far far away… Oh sorry, that’s the beginning of Star Wars. Well, in France in May 2019 which seems about as remote, we went and bought champagne for the big birthday bashes mentioned briefly in Post 24 of 8th May 2019. It might as well be a far-away Galaxy, let’s face it. Anyhoo, we had gone to Roger Brun champagne in Ay as it’s our favourite “every day drinking” champagne. (I’d like to lay claim to that phrase but it unfortunately belongs to a pal of ours so TM Val). We still have some left and today’s cocktail (which I will come back to) has this as its base, but any champagne (or, I guess, sparkling wine generally) will do.

Why have I been so silent? No update for over ten days. Life has been so exciting here I’ve been too busy to type. Not as exciting as battling a Death Star, obviously, but in terms of everyday life it was a welcome change. A few months ago I won a FitBit in the local charity lottery. I finally got around to setting it up and linking it to both my phone and my health insurance. I get points for this which I think results in me having a cheaper premium next year: remember to ask me if you find that sort of thing interesting. I also volunteered for a health check which gives me more points. As I can’t go into a pharmacy and have samples taken, this involved being sent a kit with which to extract my own blood. Told you I’d had an exciting time! A nurse and I had a meeting on the computer and she told me what to do. I had two tubes to fill with blood, a bit like Tony Hancock in the blood donor https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niHr5jXEpNE which I’ve just watched for the first time in many years and still find it funny (but un-PC in places). My first two fingers didn’t want to bleed, it clotted very quickly and just managed to fill the first tube. I then ran my other hand under the hot tap, stuck the lancet into the third finger and it wouldn’t stop bleeding for about twenty minutes. I’ve yet to get the results back but I’m still alive. And I had to make my own cup of tea afterwards!

The main excitement for JD was re-designing the compost area. We had a few bins for grass cuttings but they’ve slowly been falling apart. You can see one of the lambs on top of one at the end of Post 91 (9th May), enjoying the food. I’ve got a picture of before here, at the moment there is no after as it’s still a work in progress.

Run down compost area

The sheep (but not the lambs) were shorn (sheared?) last weekend, they now look like goats to my eye, all big heads and skinny bodies instead of the teddy bears they usually resemble.

On Wednesday we had our first visitor since we’ve been allowed to see people! Only one of course, and we sat outside, a suitable distance apart, chatted and had afternoon tea. I’m not sure I should have made our friend a pot of tea and cake, or whether she should have brought her own. My instinct told me to be sociable so I provided refreshments. Then, the next day, another visitor! Two in one week! This was slightly more official as our boilers had needed servicing earlier in the year but coronavirus intervened. Again, loosening of the rules (guidelines?) meant this could now happen, with precautions. The dogs both greeted him warmly but us humans kept our distances.

Lupins

I had ordered a lot of plants to put into my pots (see Post 87 dated 12th April) around some dahlias I found. On Tuesday, 40 petunias and five phlox arrived, followed by 72 lavender plugs a few days later. Meanwhile the tomato seeds I’d sown into pots were beginning to get their first set of proper leaves so needed re-potting into bigger pots.

Lavender plugs

In addition I have three peonies to plant out. We had two in the garden but they seem to have died a death, along with the peach, the crab apple, two of the blueberries and possibly the apricot. The last gooseberry has disappeared. I’ve ordered replacements for these, let’s hope we get some rain before they arrive in the autumn. I don’t think I’ve seen any serious rain since I came home.

Lavender pots

Having had no rain and with a good weather forecast, we decided to have a BBQ. This is quite an expedition as we have to take all the food, drink, cutlery etc up to the barn where the BBQ is kept. It would be a lot easier to bring the BBQ down to the house but the views are not as good. We also get a fair bit of exercise at the same time. I took my laptop with us to watch Rusalska being beamed from Glyndebourne. We missed watching the first half as the sunlight was too bright!

How to see opera in the lockdown

The following night we had a takeaway. This is much more exciting than it sounds as not many places close to us are still operating. Matt’s Kitchen in Bruton is providing a limited menu on Friday and Saturday each week: we’ve eaten there in the past and always enjoyed the food so thought we’d give it a go. Highly recommended but I need to tell him to vary the menu for more repeat business.

Cocktails: at the end of the last blog post we had one called Hai Karate. For those of you (us) of a Certain Age, this was an aftershave in the 1960s to 1980s. As you’d expect from those times, the ads were of men splashing it on then being chased by girls. The drink did not have that effect on us, I’m happy to say, and was a more pleasant aroma than the reviews seem to suggest for the original. Mix 30 ml each lime, orange and pineapple juices, 60 ml rum, 5 ml maple syrup and a dash of bitters. I used Angostura bitters for this, http://angosturabitters.com/our-story/ which is possibly the one most people will have lurking in a forgotten cupboard. Like so many alcoholic beverages, it was invented by a medic, Dr Johann Siegert, to help with stomach problems. I didn’t know that Angostura is a town in Venezuela. Dr Siegert was Surgeon General to Simon Bolivar’s armies and perfected his recipe in the 1820s for the soldiers. Before too long it was being exported to the UK and used in cocktails.

So we are almost up to date. At the beginning of today I mentioned Roger Brun champagne. I decided I’d better do a champagne and bitters cocktail this weekend after the request on the last Blog Post. Not the classic one, that would be boring, so I found one called “Prince of Whales”. I cannot work out why, there’s no ambergris included and the quantity is not cetacean-sized. The name is somewhat academic anyway as, of course, I’ve amended the recipe. It should have been Madeira, Brandy, triple sec and Angostura bitters all topped up with champagne. Instead it was 20 ml Chinese wine (a bit like sherry), 20 ml cognac (OK, that is brandy), 7 ml triple sec (no change there), a couple of splashes of Hotel Chocolat cocoa bitters, all topped up with blanc de blanc Roger Brun champagne (that is, made only with the Chardonnay grape, no Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier). Any thoughts on the name I should give it? Both cocktails were very enjoyable, I only hope you’re not going back to work tomorrow if you decide to try them both!

92. Life In The Time of Covid-19 (3)

As you can see from today’s title, my imagination is not up to scratch this morning. I have a few items to cover from previous posts before I see if I can get into gear. It’s also getting difficult finding appropriate photos at times now that I’m not going anywhere, not even to the shops. You’ll get a lot of flowers, trees and sheep / lambs in the next few months. First though, for those of you who read this because of the sub-title (something to do with boats if I remember that far back), there are some items on the Clipper website you might like to read.

On Qingdao, with George, was another Circumnavigator known as Frankie. He’s one of the Chinese Ambassadors and sailed the first Leg of the last race (2017/18). His story is worth reading and there is a video in the article which features a certain George Dawson a few times. Here’s the link: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/a-life-changing-story-new-video-showcasing-the-story-of-qingdao-ambassador-frankie

Medlar tree

Back in Subic Bay, we left two of the professional crew to look after the boats: Jeronimo, the skipper on Punta del Este, and Hugo, the mate (AQP) on Ha Long Bay. They are there for who knows how long as current planning is that the fleet will sail mid-February 2021 (nine months from now). Here’s how they occupy their time: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/life-looking-after-the-fleet-in-the-philippines

A year ago this week was Crew Allocation Day in Portsmouth. Blog posts 24 to 26 (on 8th, 18th and 19th May 2019) cover the details as they were at the time, if you want to go back that far. Alternatively, the Clipper website brings back a taste of the event. See if you can spot OBB in the photo that heads the article (but remember, no beards!). https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/new-beginnings-reflections-on-crew-allocation

And before you ask, I can’t see them and I know roughly where they were.

…It’s now afternoon and I’ve thought of a Post title but it would mean going back and re-writing the first section so I’ll see if I can use it next time. Back in Post 90 (29th April) I tempted fate by showing a picture of our wisteria, which is about four years old, and referring to it as magnificent. Of course, that led to pictures of truly magnificent ones being sent to me. Thanks everyone, wait a few more years and we’ll be able to rival you! Maybe. Also in that post I referred to needing my five-a-day. One unkind soul (who shall remain nameless but has the initials JD) verbalised what you were all thinking: that I was saying I needed five spirits a day, as in the cocktail Bad Attitude. I’ve still not made that one as I was obviously talking about fruit and vegetables. Honestly, what do you think of me? (Don’t answer that). Luckily, as well as using the drinks in cocktails, one of OBB (again, nameless…) is using the rum in puddings (banana or pineapple) and the whisky in steak dishes, so the bottles are slowly emptying.

Foxglove

In the newspaper this week was an article telling us that cocktails and baking were no longer fashionable, we’ve been in lock-down so long and we’re bored with it all. We haven’t had a cocktail since the Bois de Rose in the last blog post, but I’m planning one or two for this weekend. We are rather spoilt for choice as the next two bottles are similar: bitters. These are used, like the absinthe, in tiny amounts as flavours rather than main ingredients. One is the classic Angostura bitters and the other a Hotel Chocolat cocoa bitters given to me by George one birthday some years ago. I think I’ve found a recipe that uses both. More next time. As both are over 40% alcohol I don’t think they will go off. Unlike (possibly) the Hobgoblin stout I gave JD the other night. When he read the label he discovered it was best before 2017. I told him, that’s not bad in this house. That’s not “you will be really ill after this date”. However, I did play safe after making a ginger cake. The tin of black treacle I used stated something along the lines of throw the tin away once it’s been open for three months. As it was closer to three years I thought for once I’d better play safe. (It was almost empty). I’ve looked up on the Tate & Lyle website why it is such specific wording and apparently for this and the golden syrup cans, pressure can build up and it may explode. I wish I’d left it (outside) now, it could have been exciting.

I’ve knitted a new item this week, as shown in the next photo. It’s doubled over so there’s a pocket for coffee filters, tissues or whatever you feel best. We can throw them away after use as I can knit more quite quickly, although the I-cord was a pain to make. Oddly enough, I have some coffee filters left over from a Spanish holiday long ago: they are priced in pre-Euro currency. I’m sure they can’t go off? No best before date anyway.

This photo also shows my latest hair style. It’s beginning to remind me of when I had long hair, as a little girl. I hated it, the brush was always tangling it up and it hurt. My mum used to use Vitapointe, I wondered if it’s still going so I checked. Amazingly, it is still available and is THE product for curly (frizzy) hair. I think I should get some and report back, although at its current length my hair is not yet tangling. https://www.makeupalley.com/product/showreview.asp/ItemId=142646/Vitapointe/Unlisted-Brand/Conditioner

All seven lambs

As is now “normal”, a picture of the lambs to end.

91. Let Us Remember

Yesterday was VE Day, 75 years after the end of the Second World War in Europe. What we are going through at the moment may feel like we are suffering by being stuck at home but it’s nothing in comparison. We will get through this and our homes, the cities and all other places will look the same. When I first started working in the early 1970s, there were still bombsites around that had not been rebuilt, used for the most part as car parks. That is unimaginable now.

Without planning to, we spent yesterday planting a couple of oaks that John’s father had grown from acorns and given to us, along with a load of other oak and horse chestnut seedlings, a number of years ago. How these two were not planted out I’m not sure, but they have been growing in pots at the front of the house for the last few years. With hindsight it’s appropriate that two English oaks, nurtured by a Second World War Navy rating, should be planted on VE Day. We have two corners for the other oaks and horse chestnuts but these two have gone to fill gaps in the hedges. In years to come, they will just be part of the countryside. Looking further back, English oaks were used for the keels of ships in Elizabethan times. We can be thankful that we do not have to face the thought of all our trees being chopped down for such purposes.

But you don’t come to my blog to read history or serious subjects. What about the cocktails? All in good time. All the jobs we were doing we’re still doing, everything seems to take an age when there’s no urgency. I did try a remote piano lesson on Zoom but we were getting some strange feedback. Possibly my (very untuned) piano, possibly my playing, let’s be charitable and say it’s a problem we can solve. It does concentrate the mind when you know someone else is listening. I might have an appreciative audience outside but maybe these partridge are deaf to my music.

Not spotted by Polly

JD had his birthday in the middle of last week so I tried a cocktail out in advance. This week’s ingredient is Aperol, an Italian aperitif. For those of you who have never come across it, this is the bright orange stuff that people in the UK “discovered” a few years back and made into Aperol spritz (Aperol with prosecco and soda water) to drink in the long hot summer evenings. Well, I could be boring and stick with that but I thought I’d be a bit more adventurous. The Aperol website says the colour is due to a blend of sweet and bitter oranges, accompanied by a secret mix of herbs and roots. The recipe was perfected in 1919. https://www.aperol.com/en-gb

Polly relaxing

Go back to Blog Post 87 of 12th April and you’ll see that I’ve already used it in Rimbaud’s Right Hand. Can’t do that again. I came up with ten new recipes, some still with absinthe. I guess both were around in about the same era. There’s one called Scotch Bonnet which includes Tabasco. I don’t know if the Scotch Bonnet chilli pepper is used in Tabasco but it’s not my idea of a refreshing cocktail. An Aperol Royal is similar to the Spritz, with champagne. I decided upon a slightly more festive one for John’s birthday, called Bois de Rose. Mix 20 ml elderflower liqueur, 7 ml Aperol, 30 ml gin, 7 ml lemon juice and top up with pink sparkling wine. Very enjoyable.

Despite my cake making, we had a professionally made one for the actual birthday. I have also been making desserts, mostly of the mousse variety so I can prepare a batch to freeze, otherwise we’ll be eating the same thing for a week. I was allowed to cook for JD’s birthday (I usually eat what has been prepared for me) so we had smoked salmon with pink grapefruit, grouse and lavender & maple syrup bavarois, which is a mousse to you and me (well, certainly to me. You can decide what you’d prefer to call it). As we couldn’t have a proper get-together, there were a lot of parcels delivered from the family for JD to unwrap on the day. Mostly food and wine so we’ll be OK for the next few months in lock-down.

And there I think I’ll call it a day as the cocktail hour beckons once again. The sun is shining so we can drink al fresco and call it a sun-downer.

90. We’re Busy Doing Nothing

I am so sorry, you’re probably thinking I’ve poisoned us both with all that old food and that’s why you didn’t get a cocktail recipe at the weekend. Fear not, I’ve just been remiss and neglected you all. And before JD tells me off for the title today, we are very busy. I just like the song, it’s sung by Bing Crosby in the 1949 film “A Connecticut Yankee in King’ Arthur’s Court” based (very loosely I suspect) on the book by Mark Twain. Sing along now…

Post 89 received a few comments that I should reference. “Shower caps” are available from Ikea, they look much more robust than the ones I’m using. https://www.ikea.com/ch/en/p/oevermaett-food-cover-set-of-2-silicone-light-blue-70461936/. I cannot agree regarding Hobnobs, I won’t tell you the remark that JD made but I’ll send the next packet straight through to Wiltshire! Finally, some boxes of wine do indeed hold 12 bottles but more and more I’m seeing boxes of six (unless my reputation has gone before me and they think that’s all I can handle). I was under the impression it was due to EU regulations and maximum weights, such as we had many years ago in our profession, before computer submissions became the norm.

So, what shall we get up to today?

Post 88 on 18th April, ELEVEN DAYS ago, left you waiting for a cocktail. Who guessed the magic ingredient? Not Aperol (which comes next in my alphabet) but Amaretto. You can find (non alcoholic) Amaretto biscuits as well as the drink, the word apparently means “little bitter” (I don’t speak Italian so didn’t know this). I’ve just found out, while doing my research, that 19th April was Disaronno Day last year so I’m on trend for this year! http://www.disaronno.com/en/news/disaronno-day-2019. This is the brand I like (others are available, maybe I should try them). It has a very distinctive shaped bottle which I’ve finished off (there was less than an inch in the bottom) and thrown away so no photo of it I’m afraid. Here’s a magnificent wisteria instead.

Bearded iris and wisteria

Amaretto is an almond flavoured liqueur (from almonds or apricot kernels) which I love (as well as the biscuits), especially after a good dinner in front of a roaring fire. However, there’s no excitement in that for you so what mixture did I come up with? After I’d dismissed the shots (see Post 86 on 7th April), I was left with nine possibilities, although there are many others on the internet. I’m not a fan of egg white or cream in cold drinks and the ones with tea seemed like a cheat from Prohibition. There were a few with just Amaretto and one other ingredient (lemon juice, Irish whiskey, tequila) which I didn’t like the sound of. This left me with three: Cosmic Bliss, Bad Attitude and Big Red Hooter. How to decide between three such wonderful sounding names? Let’s look at the constituents of each: the first has orange, lemon and lime juices; the second FIVE other spirits (gin, rum, tequila, triple sec and vodka) plus Grenadine, as well as three juices (cranberry, orange and pineapple); the third has merely tequila, Grenadine and pineapple juice. Decision made, I need my five a day and don’t have any pineapple juice. Cosmic Bliss it is! As I’m trying to see the Starlink (Elon Musk’s satellite train) when it passes overhead this is very appropriate as well.

Cosmic bliss!

The rest of the time has mostly been taken with routine tasks mentioned previously so of no interest. I’ve made lemon and cardamom drizzle cake as well as caraway seed cake. Yes, you’ve guessed it, I’m trying to use up the spices that we have in the cupboard, this is a great book to have as an inspiration for recipes. Author Dhruv Baker (what an apt name!) won MasterChef in 2010 on UK television (for anyone not au fait with such programmes, including me).

Adie has not eaten anything she should not have (to the best of our knowledge). The garden and lambs continue to grow. The vegetable seeds I ordered before I left London (see Post 84 dated 27th March) finally turned up so I’ve planted those as well as some old ones I found in the shed, we’ll see what comes up. The rain that has now arrived is most welcome. Also looking back at that Post, I see that I said I’d missed the daffodils. Not so, yesterday I came across these in the garden.

Pheasant’s eye narcissi

George had his birthday last Friday. We were expecting to be celebrating in Seattle with a crowd of sailors. Instead George is still “on his tod” in London so we held a virtual party with his Godparents, a couple of friends and us. (If you’re not familiar with this saying, it’s Cockney rhyming slang for being alone. I didn’t know where it came from so looked it up. There was a US jockey called Tod Sloane at the end of the last century. Sloane = on your own). We tried to get together on WhatsApp but that only allows three people, so George had to set us up on Zoom, while the rest of us ran around turning on our computers. Lessons learnt: as well as not trying to WhatsApp too many people, do not leave your wine in a garage behind an electronic door. If there is a power cut you’re stumped! (I’m glad to say we do not have any electronic locks so we had plenty of champagne to toast George).

And finally, in case you want to know how the lambs are getting on, here’s two of them yesterday aged eleven days.

89. Life In The Time Of Covid-19 (2)

Good morning class, today we have a special day on home economics, so sit up straight, settle down and don’t fidget. Before we start assembly, we have a couple of announcements. First, to Ed, we didn’t mean to bring back those horrible childhood nightmares of SP (we cannot bring ourselves to put it in full). We hope no other ill effects were seen from the last blog post. Second, a huge well done to JT, who correctly spotted the Dalek ice cube! Have a piece of cake as a reward next time we meet! (We shall ignore the other suggestion made by JT, which should mean five minutes’ detention under other circumstances). The other ice cube was of K-9: there is also a Tardis one but it wouldn’t fit in the glass. This was not actually that difficult a quiz question if you’ve seen my freezer. (I’m not sure if it’s featured in an early post so here it is again if so).

My freezer

Let us acknowledge the patron saint of us all, Sir David Attenborough at the beginning of this long period. He exhorts us to lay aside our foolish ways and save the planet by not wasting anything. Today, in homage, we are therefore going to address how to reduce waste and as a by-product, save money (Possibly, although you may just be driven to drink).

Our first stop is the kitchen. As we are now into week 4 of the lock-down, we have all sorted our spices and herbs into alphabetical order, tidied the wine rack and defrosted the freezer and listed all contents of this and the fridge. What’s that at the back, your wine rack is already empty? You’ve drunk it all in the first month? In these straitened times we all have to apply discipline and exhibit strong morale. Stick to buying one case a week and you can’t go wrong. As a case is only six bottles, you can decide before opening it which day will be purgatory sorry your day of rest.

Full marks if you played the “Chocolate sauce or gravy?” game instead of throwing away the unidentifiable items! We have been able to use up some packets that we found lurking at the back of our cupboards: first some gnocchi from 2013 which made two very nice meals, then a jar of miso paste that went very nicely with some aubergines and finally, top marks to JD for using the jar of butterscotch sauce which we bought in 2004: he combined it with rum to make an extremely nice sauce for some pineapple. Next up, a hardly aged tin of condensed milk (from 2009) from which I shall be making kulfi. Additionally we finished the family pack size of Weetabix that our house sitters kindly left for us. Other food to finish: on his way home at the beginning of this month JD could not find digestives and as an alternative bought Hobnobs. Can anyone explain the attraction of these? I have been forcing myself to have one a day, it’s like having sawdust in your mouth. But we’re not wasting them!

Finished!

Also in the kitchen, try not to waste other things. I decided we are using way too much clingfilm and bought some reusable covers. They are very good but still made of plastic (the beeswax ones seem to be sold out) and resemble nothing so much as shower caps: next time you’re staying in a hotel, remember a shower cap can serve other purposes!

Alternative shower caps

Out of the kitchen, let us go to laundry and sewing. When we iron items, it is SO useful to enable us to go through our wardrobe and highlight those items that could do with a little tender care. I managed to dispose (tenderly) of four tea towels at the weekend when I spotted the holes in them. (These were caused either by extreme age or the mouse that Polly brought into the kitchen and set free some time ago). We are now down to our last 50 (tea towels, not mice), including the one featured in Post 47 way back in September 2019.

Last of all, having done all the ironing and much as we hate to tidy (yes, I’m talking to you), remember all those items you bought and kept the box in case they were faulty and you had to send them back? Now is the time to go up into the loft and find them all and bring them downstairs and throw them out! It is a wonderfully satisfying feeling. Here are (some of) ours. The newest is a mere two years old and the oldest was bought in 2012. All well out of warranty, with some thrown away as unable to be repaired.

Empty boxes from the loft

Now that we have all finished our tasks for the day, how about a little fun before bedtime? Our other patron saint, Sir Robin, has had long experience of self-isolation and has given us handy insights here: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/insights-from-sir-robin-a-person-who-chose-extreme-isolation. You can have hours of fun learning all the necessary nautical knots before you set off with Clipper next time. https://www.firstclasssailing.com/sailing-knots is a useful starting place but there are plenty of other sites.

And for our final prayer before bedtime, we shall recite “Little Lamb who made thee” by William Blake. On second thoughts, maybe we should leave biology lessons for tomorrow.

88. California Dreaming

That’s as near as we’ll get, dreaming about it. I should, in normal life, now be on my way to Seattle. A crowd of us were due to fly early on 18th April to wave the boats in. Instead, we’re not waving at anyone unless it’s at a neighbour across the road. To quote the song, “All the leaves are brown”: no they’re not, it’s Spring. “And the sky is grey”: well yes it is. We’re having rain for the first time since I got home, quite enjoyable except that the temperature has plummeted about ten degrees. OK, maybe plummeted is an exaggeration but I’ve had to get out my jumpers.

Who you looking at?

Before we get any further, I think I should warn you that there will be no cocktails in this Post. I haven’t made any since last weekend (but I probably will tonight) so next time I’ll let you know the next mystery ingredient. (If you squint at the photo in Blog Post 86 from earlier this month you might just be able to make it out). There may not be flowers either. However, there is (look away now) a scary picture of me channelling my inner Struwwelpeter or shock-headed Peter (thankfully not the finger nails). I’m ahead of the curve in terms of letting my hair revert to its natural colouring, but I may need to give myself a buzz cut if this lockdown goes on for much longer, or ask John to do it for me. I used to say I wanted to do this and have it dyed green like a billiard table (odd child) so maybe now is my chance?

Yet another bad selfie

What am I going to talk about, you ask. What I did with my week? I could tell you about Strewwelpeter. He is the protagonist of a children’s book written in 1845 by a German author, Heinrich Hoffman and served as a warning to children who misbehaved. He was the inspiration for Edward Scissorhands. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/original-struwwelpeter-illustrations-childrens-moral-lesson-book

A cocktail (Corpse reviver no 9)

Now that I look back at my diary, we did have one more cocktail on Sunday night, not long after I finished the last update. Here’s a picture to prove it. Despite my disdain for off-putting names last time, this is called Corpse Reviver No 9, with Sambuca, Aquavit, Cointreau, Vermouth and lime juice. Possibly required after looking at my early morning selfie above. You wash the glass with the Sambuca then throw it away. Or drink it. Then add 30ml each of the other ingredients. I have some special ice cubes which I used here, see if you can work out what they relate to.

What do these ice cubes look like?

Am I going to have to find the previous eight for you? Time will tell. The second ingredient along the bar was thus Akavit, from Sweden (yes, I am so anal that they are in alphabetic order, to help you work out the next one). There are lots of aquavits / akavits available, the name can be translated as “water of life” and others are eau de vie and whisk(e)y.

On Easter Monday we got up and poor Adie was being sick. Later, we found John’s little bag of salted caramel Easter eggs was missing. I had bought these some time ago and given them to him to have on Unicef when Easter Sunday arrived. George says Qingdao ate theirs the day after they sailed. JD kept his and of course Easter on board never happened. We had a few but Adie had more. She somehow managed to leave a stream of silver foil wrappers in the garden, which was a bit of a give away (unless JD did this and tried to blame the dog?). As she was throwing up and the chocolates were not dark chocolate, probably not much chocolate at all once you’d taken the caramel and salt into consideration (and boy were they salty), there was no point taking her to the vet (who would make her throw up or pump her stomach).

I started to knit, not flowers as threatened in Post 87, but a jumper. I bought the yarn (alpaca) over a year ago and the pattern I had decided on at the time I now decided against, so that meant hours on the computer trying to find a pattern I like this year. You may get to see it one day. I also made a chocolate coffee cheesecake which you can see, decorated with redcurrants from the freezer.

Cheesecake

Talking of currants, John decided to rearrange the flagstones in the fruit cage so he could move the currants (black, red and white) and stop them growing into the mesh every year. This is a demanding task and is taking place over a number of days. Here it is part way through. The cage is not to stop the birds (in fact, two bull finches were flying around inside it yesterday) but to stop Greta eating the raspberries as she then starts scratching. She also eats most of the alpine strawberries growing around the garden before I get the chance to pick them.

Black, red and white currant bushes

Two days after eating the chocolate eggs, Adie blotted her copy book once more. This time it was a few Macushield capsules and she gave herself away again, not by throwing up but by having bright yellow paws and muzzle. At least she should have good eyesight!

Me? Steal food?

The most exciting part of the week is about to be discussed. John wandered around to see what other jobs needed doing and came back to let me know that Kate’s three pregnant ewes had produced seven lambs. There is one set of triplets. They are a cross between Ryeland (mum) and Herdwick (dad) so we are excited to see what their fleece looks like (easily excited here). Ryelands are the very fluffy sheep (“teddy bears”) you get when you ask a child to draw a sheep, with a fine fleece that was used for clothing. Herdwick are the grey hardy sheep with white faces and quite a coarse fleece, often used for carpets. Herdwyck means sheep pasture in old Norse. https://www.herdy.co.uk/the-farming-year/all-about-herdwicks/ and Beatrix Potter kept a flock, as they are native to the Lake District and she was keen to preserve their heritage.

I cannot decide which photos of the lambs I like best so there are a few scattered about this Post, I hope they brighten your weekend. (As I don’t eat lamb, there are no roast dinners)! I’ll try to get them as they grow up and leap into the air as only young lambs seem to do. These are all within 24 hours of them being born.

And now I’m off to make that cocktail I mentioned. I have sixteen recipes to choose from, I’ve not looked at all the ingredients to see how many I can actually make (or adapt). Ciao! (That’s a clue).