99. The Past Is A Foreign Country

I’m not sure I’ve ever read The Go-Between (by L P Hartley) but I do know the quote. It will be on my shelves somewhere so I’ll add it to my ever-growing heap to be read.

Thanks to Clipper Ventures (CV20 to CV31, Korea to Unicef) and coronavirus (CV-19), I am currently careless. CAR-LESS. Wretched auto-correct. A pal asked me the other day if I missed driving. Oh, I replied, I used to be a real petrol-head. The cars I’ve had in my youth (in no particular order): a 1971 Mini, Triumph Spitfire, MGB, Morgan, Morris Traveller, Lancia Beta, Fiat 500 and my favourite, Saab. Going round Haynes Motor Museum is a real trip down memory lane. A common fault in Morris Travellers was the front axle breaking and the car adopting a “tired” position, as you’ll see right at the end of this Post. We had it repaired and it kept going for quite a while after.

A proper Mini!

Later, company cars and then, when we moved down here, 4×4’s. My “next car” in about 2010 was going to be the Saab 9-4X, but the company folded before they were introduced into the UK. I still look every so often to see if a miracle has occurred and they’ve reappeared. I think it must be in my genes, when my mother died and we went through her belongings, nearly all her photos were of her cars or her dogs. I’ve bored you with the dogs in Posts Past (and, no doubt, Post To Come) so I’ll bore you with some of my old cars in this Post. I’ve checked the number plates and I think all have gone to the great breakers’ yard in the sky.


I can no longer cherry pick, the birds descended on the trees the day after my last Post. During the lockdown, like many of you I’m sure, I have been catching up on neglected jobs that I always meant to get around to some day. (I worked with a chap many years ago who had, on his desk, a Round Tuit that someone had made for him. Say aloud ‘I’ll get a Round Tuit one day’).


In 2012 we went to the London Olympics to see a few of the events. As a permanent record I collected the first day covers issued by the Royal Mail, one for each of the Team GB Gold medal winners. These arrived in envelopes containing three first day covers each, ready to put into the album. I placed them on one of my office shelves and there they sat for eight years. Really? Surely it’s not that long ago? Anyway they are now nicely filed and will go with all the other mementos from the event. I think I have finally realised the use of the top shelf as well. JD (who put them up originally) kept telling me it wasn’t actually the top shelf but a dust shelf, to keep dust off the lower ones. I never really got this but now it is serving its intended function. As you can see from the lower shelves, this tidying is still work in progress.

Dust free shelf

In sorting out the shelves I also came across all the old mobile phones that I meant to send off to some charity (probably the British Polio Fellowship, https://www.britishpolio.org.uk/ as that’s the one I feel a personal link to). Some were in boxes and others were just lying there gathering dust. The boxes and instruction leaflets have all been thrown out and I am now the proud owner of fifteen old mobile phones and three iPods. I might start a museum. Or send them off to the BPF. Not today though.

Beginnings of the mobile phone museum

After the scrappy Brindle cocktail garnish (see Post 98, 8th July), the pal who participated in that experiment brought me a tiny sage bush as a present. I need to put it in the herb bed, but first I need to remove the weeds that have invaded whilst I lavished all that care on my tomato plants. Another job for another day.

This weekend we had a new victim, no, a visitor (must remember to get that right), so I tried more new cocktails. The special ingredient was Chartreuse. https://www.chartreuse.fr/en/ (the history is fascinating and much more detailed than here). This was invented by Chartreuse monks in France, based on an elixir for long life that they were bequeathed in 1605. They lost the permission to make it at times but now only they distill it and if you buy a bottle you are supporting them! They claim it is the only green liqueur that has no artificial colouring: it’s made with 130 herbs and other plants. You can visit the distillery, ending up with a tasting of the different liqueurs they make, so that’s on the post-lockdown list. We have both green (55% alcohol) and yellow (40% alcohol and sweeter in flavour). One of the cocktail recipes used both but where’s the fun in that? I amended one from Wolf’s Bite to Wolf’s Lick: the official recipe called for 45 ml gin, 15 ml green chartreuse and 30 ml grapefruit juice but I’d made grapefruit syrup so used that instead. A bit too sweet: the next night we had the proper recipe and it was much better, more Bite.

Before we went onto the second cocktail tasting we had some exercise: brunch at the Roth Bar and Grill just outside Bruton https://www.rothbarandgrill.co.uk/ followed by a tour of the Hauser and Wirth gallery (stunning black and white photographs by Don McCullin) then the Piet Oudolf garden, where we saw a Peacock butterfly sunning itself. https://www.hauserwirth.com/locations/10068-hauser-wirth-somerset The header is a snapshot of the garden: after the exhibition I feel really embarrassed about my photographic offerings. The cars I can blame on their age and the camera I had then, but honestly I think it’s the operator more than the apparatus.

As we couldn’t miss out the Yellow Chartreuse, and as we’d been to Wells Cathedral after Bruton, I made a cocktail called Cloister: 45 ml gin, 15 ml Yellow Chartreuse, 7 ml lemon juice (but I used lime as someone had forgotten to buy lemons), 15 ml grapefruit juice (not syrup after the previous night’s experience) and half a teaspoon of caster sugar. Very easy to drink, we might have had refills? More walking the next day cleared heads before our pal had to leave.

The past may be a foreign country but it’s the easiest one to travel to for now. No passport, no quarantine, no need to worry about money or language. You do need a good memory though which I don’t really have. I was looking for a quote about seeing dimly through a ripped curtain but I think I have misremembered it! Never mind, where shall we go to next time?

2 thoughts on “99. The Past Is A Foreign Country

  1. Interesting around 1980, a medic at Ciba-Geigy, Horsham also had a Round Tuit on his pinboard. Never seen one since. JD


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