126. A Mixed Bag

The main problem with not posting regularly is that I end up with all sort of things I wanted to say which become rather old and stale. Here are some of them, I’ll try to be more topical from now on as I’ve managed to get my tax return out of the door!

I’ve gone back to the last two Septembers to see if I mentioned September 19th, which is apparently ‘International Talk Like A Pirate Day’, the nearest I can get to boats at the moment. A few days late but let’s all shiver our timbers.

Now we’ve got that out of the way, what’s been happening?

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

We were in London (some months ago) and went to the V&A. It (still) has on an Alice in Wonderland exhibition which was supposedly sold out. One of the advantages of signing up for membership is that you can go the desk and they’ll fast track you. Success! It was pretty surreal, as you can imagine. One of the questions on display was, ‘do cats eat bats?’. I can answer that in the affirmative. Polly caught and ate a bat in front of us, when we refused to top up her food bowl (it had plenty in it, just not what she fancied). Thankfully, she’s not developed a local Covid variant. In competition, Adie ate a heap of tasty cheeses we’d left on the dining table after lunch, lay groaning for the rest of the evening and drinking copious amounts of water. One was a blue cheese, which is meant to be poisonous to dogs, but she didn’t know that. I suspect she’d do the same again if the opportunity arose, she has no shame (or memory).

In Post 125 there was a photo of me and JD smiling in the rain, we’d gone to the IoW again to see the Round-the-Island race. They have some great restaurants over there, the Smoking Lobster and Castlehaven Beach Café being two we tried and enjoyed. This year we didn’t go to lunch until after the boats had sailed by and did manage to see George’s (but not him as he says he was downstairs, sorry, below decks). We had a blustery walk to St Catherine’s Lighthouse but otherwise not much exercise.

George going round the IoW

Last time I mentioned that we’d been to Hastings to see a pal. We discovered the speciality of the town, fish buns. Forerunners of fish finger sandwiches maybe? There are some fun museums, the Fishermen’s Museum and the Shipwreck Museum. Well, we had to visit those, didn’t we? Especially after I’d been to one in Australia (see Post 64 of 15th December 2019).

We discovered that, if a smuggler was captured, his boat was impounded and turned into a hut for the locals. One word of warning if you visit friends, now that we can do such things. Do not turn your back on them if they have a camera!

Does My Bum Look Big in This?

Other restaurants we’ve been to, now that it’s allowed, include Gaucho’s in London. They were offering a great scheme for those who had a birthday in lockdown: 10% for every decade of your life off all food for a party of up to six. We went for two evenings, one for each of us. (My platter was better, I had brownies, see today’s header). Had we been able to find a willing centenarian, we’d have had all food free plus a bottle of champagne.


We met George and a pal at The Gun in London Docklands, where we had a great meal and a great view of the river.

https://www.thegundocklands.com/

We also discovered Kazan, a Turkish place with a sofa I might use as inspiration for my cellar dive bar. Talking of which, I think I’ve rather been neglecting the cocktail strand of this blog. I’ve not had any great ideas from any of you so I’m ploughing my own furrow. I’ve still not made whisky cocktails so I’ve not quite reached the end of the alphabet (hence random ingredients, not at all in accord with my original intent). I could check which letters are missing and order weird bottles, just to keep you all entertained. Quinoa vodka? Zymergorium Realm of The Unicorn? I have a sad story though, which might point me in a direction.

Our Brave Boys at The Gun

Earlier in the year, an old friend of JD died. When I say old friend, I mean one of long-standing, not an old person. They had been at school together so not at all aged (I’ve been informed). Anyway, it so happened that JD had been made executor. Please, if you do write a will and name an individual as your executor (as opposed to your solicitor’s company, for example), warn them. We were on our way to Newcastle anyway, where he lived, so called in on the solicitor and collected the keys. This pal was a lifelong bachelor so had no sensible person to restrain his collecting. In his house we discovered (amongst the books, CDs, pictures, tea sets etc) about 15 unopened bottles of Benedictine and triple sec variants (Cointreau, Grand Marnier etc). Thus, I could make cocktails until I’ve used these up, although it would get rather boring for all of us after the first few months. Here’s a start!

https://www.diffordsguide.com/encyclopedia/3146/cocktails/20-best-benedictine-cocktails

The whole trip to Newcastle was rather stressful, as you could imagine. On our way home, once we’d given the house a final check, we called into JD’s brother in Yorkshire. We’d picked up both JD’s mother and nephew, who needed a lift down. On arrival, we unpacked the car and found that my laptop bag was missing, with my meds and laptop inside. Had I taken it out at any of the three stops? No. Had I left it in our hotel room or at reception? We called them but no trace was found. We asked them to go and check where the car had been parked, on the roadside opposite the hotel. No luck there either. Finally, in desperation, we called the Police. Yes, it had been handed in! Wonderful, could a relative who was also coming down to Yorkshire collect it on our behalf? Yes, but only with my original written authority, not a copy. So, let me think this through. I write a letter, sign it, drive it up there, give it to someone who goes to the police station and gets my bag. I think there’s a basic flaw here. We got in the car the next morning and instead of heading south for home, drove three hours in the wrong direction. About half an hour before the police station closed, we got stuck in a traffic jam and arrived five minutes after they shut. I went and rattled the door handle. No answer, but an off-duty chap came out of a side door and told me to use the emergency phone next to the door. This gave me some guff about Covid and everywhere being closed and please hold for more information. As I was doing so, another chap came out, saw me about to burst into tears and asked if he could help. I explained my dilemma and he knocked on a window, explained to his mate inside what was happening, and I got all my stuff back! What a relief. The little old lady ploy worked again!

River Lune, Lancaster


It was now too late to contemplate driving all the way home so we looked at the map and agreed we’d never been to Lancaster and let’s go overnight, we’ll be halfway (ish) home. There is a Landmark Trust property there, The Music Room, which may have coloured our thinking as it was on my ‘to visit‘ list. A word of warning if you’re thinking of staying. It might be a university town (well, OK, it is) but that translates into lots of fast-food places and nowhere decent to stay or eat that we could find. It didn’t matter, we had a bed for the night. The journey home the next day was just as delayed, what should have been four hours took us seven, by which time the beasts had to stay an extra day at their hotel.

https://www.landmarktrust.org.uk/search-and-book/properties/music-room-9561/#Overview


That was a diversion from the topic of cocktails. How about an Orchard Gimlet: 25 ml each of gin and St Germain, 50 ml apple juice, top up with fizz. Rather tasty. Or, along the same topic, a Garden cocktail: Limoncello, Italicus, lemon verbena gin, lemon syrup (with rose water) and cucumber tonic. No quantities as I made it up, starting with the lemon syrup so (like Jamie Oliver) a slosh here and a glug there. I think the ones with fizz (Prosecco, Cava, Champagne, English, even tonic at a push, I’m not fussy) are my favourites.

Garden cocktail

Did any of you watch The Olympics? It feels like months ago. I wasn’t interested enough to stay up overnight but watched the highlights, it was rather like watching practice sessions with no spectators present. I became embroiled in the 3×3 basketball, not a sport I’d ever heard of, but my main love is the dressage. The most annoying issue, for anyone in the UK, was the coverage given by the BBC. There were so many complaints they had to explain. The TV rights had been sold to the Discovery / Eurosport channels and the BBC agreed to a certain amount of free viewing. We went from around 3500 hours last time around to about 350 this. No wonder I didn’t see as much. As the next one is only three years away and in Paris, maybe I’ll try to go.

I haven’t talked about health for a while. I think I mentioned I had a hospital eye appointment after a routine eye test caused the optician to say ‘ooh, that’s interesting’. Never something you want anyone medical to say. But, this time, it was interesting. Were I a boy, I’d probably have gone blind before I was out of my teens (even if I had insisted I wanted to self-identify as a girl). We might be able to say we don’t like the body we were born with but our genes don’t care. (If you want to cancel me now then I’ll understand, I have nothing against your decisions). Yes, I have something carried on the X chromosome, thankfully not on both of mine. Alternatively, I have the same problem but it’s something called ‘senile’ retinoschisis which sounds very ageist. I thought that word had been banned (senile, not ageist)? I don’t think senile dementia is spoken of nowadays. Whatever the cause of mine, it is rare and well done my optician on spotting it. Not that there’s anything they can do (and not that it’s causing me any problems, other than implying I’m OLD).

At the other end of my body, there’s a new fashion I might see if I can revive, even if it does predate my Dive Bar era by some decades. The way to do it, by wearing shoes with different height heels to give you one leg shorter than the other, I do naturally! I’m a (rather belated) trend setter!

The other trend I’m planning to set is my dive bar. Nothing to do with swimming, all to do with drinking. Having mentioned it a few times today, here’s a ‘before’ picture to whet your appetite for (possibly) the next Post.

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